Buchanan Announces $69 Million Awarded to Florida to Combat Opioid Crisis
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan, co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, announced today that the Trump Administration is releasing more than $69 million in new federal funding to help Florida combat the opioid crisis.
“These funds will help address a devastating problem throughout Florida,” Buchanan said. “The opioid crisis has destroyed too many families and lives. I will continue my work in Congress to make sure Florida has the resources it needs to help save lives and fight this epidemic.”
According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County has seen an increase in opioid-related deaths this year.
Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services is granting $932 million in state opioid response grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for next year and as well as $900 million over the next three years through a Centers for Disease Control program to improve data collection. Florida will receive a combined $69 million next year from these two funding sources.
These grants help provide flexible funding to state governments to support prevention, treatment and recovery in the way that best suits their state.
Buchanan has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. The Centralized Opioid Guidance Act, sponsored by Buchanan and signed into law last year, requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create an easily accessible resource guide on its website where health care providers, seniors and others can access all federal opioid prescribing guidelines.
Two more Buchanan-backed bills were signed into law last year, the INTERDICT Act to help stem the flow of illicit opioids and the STOP Act to toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States. In 2017, Buchanan was successful in securing millions of dollars in funding for our area of Southwest Florida to confront the opioid epidemic.
Following a May report stated that the Chinese government is unlikely to crack down on domestic production of illicit fentanyl, Buchanan called on Congress to bolster the response against Chinese fentanyl. The Chinese government had announced that it would ban all forms of fentanyl. However, concerns remain about Beijing’s poor enforcement record.
In April, Buchanan and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, bipartisan legislation to force China to stem the flow of deadly, synthetic opioids being trafficked into the United States. The lawmakers wrote an op-ed in The Hill on the need to pass their legislation.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to heroin but 50 times more powerful. These drugs are often manufactured in foreign countries and mailed into the United States. In fact, an estimated 80% of pure fentanyl seized by U.S. officials in 2017 arrived from China.
One report details that between 2015 and 2016, 1,072 shipments of fentanyl were seized by American officials before it could enter the U.S. Meanwhile, China only had four instances of seizing the substance before it could be exported.
Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, were responsible for the greatest increase in opioid deaths in Florida between 2012 and 2017. Its many spinoffs can be even more powerful, especially the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, and they led to more deaths in Manatee County than any other county in Florida in 2016.
According to the New York Times, since 2013, U.S. overdose deaths related to fentanyl and similar substances have skyrocketed from 3,000 to 28,000.
Buchanan has consistently pushed to raise awareness of the Suncoast’s drug problems including chairing a hearing specifically examining the impact of addiction on families and children. Buchanan also hosted a roundtable in Bradenton, Fla. with local police officers, medical professionals and stakeholders and led a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, DC where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts.
In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration adopted Buchanan’s proposal to make it more difficult for abusers to obtain certain highly addictive narcotics.