Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Commends Administration’s Focus on Heroin Crisis

Mar 29, 2016
Press Release
Obama Approach Similar to Buchanan-Backed Legislation

Buchanan’s District is Epicenter of Florida Heroin Epidemic

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today applauded the White House’s plan to combat heroin addiction and drug abuse. The administration is taking an approach that aligns with many provisions of legislation that Buchanan has co-sponsored and championed in the U.S. House.

Buchanan represents Manatee County, the epicenter of the heroin crisis in Florida. Manatee County had more heroin overdose deaths per capita than any other Florida county in 2014. Nationally, 125 Americans die from drug overdoses each day.

“I’m pleased that the president has weighed in on this crisis, which has affected far too many families in Florida,” Buchanan said. “I’ve championed a comprehensive approach to combating heroin and opioid addiction – one that attacks the supply of drugs, prevents new victims through better education and helps those already addicted recover and lead productive lives. Many of the administration’s proposals follow the lead of the bills I’m backing, so I am hopeful that Congress and the White House can find common ground.”

Buchanan is a co-sponsor and strong supporter of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) (H.R. 953) and the STOP ABUSE Act (H.R. 3719). Components of the White House plan that mirror CARA and the STOP ABUSE Act include:

  • Beefing up the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (included in the STOP ABUSE Act).
  • Expanding medication-assisted treatment (included in CARA).
  • Ensuring that more first responders have access to naloxone (included in CARA).
  • Forming an interagency drug task force (included in CARA).

“The heroin crisis is hitting my district hard and the Obama administration is right to make anti-drug legislation a priority,” Buchanan said. “I’ll keep pushing Congress to give our communities the resources they need to fight back against this scourge."

The number of heroin overdose deaths in Florida increased nine-fold, from 48 to 447, from 2010-2014, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Spiking heroin use rates are being driven by a “one-two punch” of cheap, available heroin and prescription narcotic abuse, according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

The sheriffs of Manatee and Sarasota Counties, as well as prominent area substance abuse professionals, have expressed support for the legislative approach Buchanan is taking.

For years, Buchanan has been a leader in the fight to crack down on prescription drug abuse. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency adopted Buchanan’s proposal to make it more difficult for abusers to obtain certain highly addictive narcotics.

Key Points of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

H.R. 953

  • Provides grants for treatment and prevention to states, nonprofits, and municipalities.
  • Funds state, local, and non-profit drug education efforts for teens and seniors.
  • Launches an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to expand best practices throughout the country.
  • Establishes an interagency task force to develop best prescribing practices for pain management and pain medication subscribing.
  • Creates new veterans-specific drug treatment courts.
  • Strengthens prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.
  • Provides grants to law enforcement agencies and other first responders for purchase of naloxone, which will reverse overdoses and save lives.
  • Expands drug take-back disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.

Key Points of the Stop the Overdose Problem Already Becoming a Universal Substance Epidemic (STOP ABUSE) Act

H.R. 3719

  • Reauthorizes High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Grants. The program coordinates federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement anti-drug trafficking efforts. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2015, 21 Florida counties were designated as HIDTAs.  
  • Creates a task force on heroin addiction that will include federal officials (from HHS, CDC, VA, DEA, NIH, etc.) as well as doctors and pharmacists.
  • Provides grants to communities facing a drug crisis (sudden increase in abuse of heroin and prescription medications) to combat drug use.
  • Limits civil liability for individuals that administer overdose drugs.
  • Reauthorizes grants that provide treatment as an alternative to incarceration and help states monitor the use of prescription drugs.