Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Discusses Drug Crisis with Bradenton, Sarasota Moms

Mar 27, 2018
Press Release
Congressman Praises Their “Tremendous Service” to Raise Awareness

Record $4 Billion in Federal Aid on the Way

SARASOTA – Congressman Vern Buchanan met Monday with Suncoast anti-drug leaders to discuss new legislation that invests $4 billion in federal funds to confront the deadly epidemic.

Legislation signed Friday to fund the federal government includes nearly $4 billion to combat the opioid epidemic through treatment, prevention and interdiction – a $3 billion increase over last year and the largest allocation of federal anti-drug funding in history.

Buchanan discussed the new legislation in his Sarasota office with Ruth Lyerly of Bradenton and Cindy Bales of Sarasota who tragically lost sons to the opioid epidemic and have become advocates for action to fight drugs.

“Too many of our loved ones are dying every day in what has become the worst drug crisis in American history,” Buchanan said. “Our region is at the epicenter of the problem in Florida.”

Lyerly and Bales noted that progress is being made on the addiction prevention front and said more attention should now be focused on expanding treatment options for those already addicted.

“Ruth and Cindy are doing a tremendous service to raise awareness of the opioid threat in our community,” Buchanan said. “They understand that it will take a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic.”

Of the $4 billion included in the just-passed federal legislation:

  • Nearly $2 billion will support treatment and prevention programs through additional grants to states, research at the National Institutes of Health and data collection efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • $386 million will go to the VA health system to help prevent opioid abuse and provide treatment for our veterans suffering from an opioid use disorder.
  • The remaining $1.7 billion will help law enforcement agencies prevent drugs from crossing our borders and keep drugs off our streets, provide resources to respond to overdoses and send low-level offenders to drug courts for treatment instead of jail.

Florida saw a dramatic 97 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, according to the most recent data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to heroin but 50 times more powerful. 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. These drugs are often manufactured in foreign countries and mailed into the United States.

Buchanan has been an active leader in confronting the opioid crisis, co-sponsoring legislation signed by the President to reduce the flow of fentanyl coming into the country. Last year, Buchanan was successful in securing millions of dollars in funding for Southwest Florida to address the epidemic.

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.