Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan to Gov: Give Suncoast Anti-Drug Funds

Apr 26, 2017
Press Release
Manatee, Sarasota Counties Hardest Hit By Deadly Narcotics

No. 1 & 2 of all 67 Florida Counties in Fentanyl Deaths

WASHINGTON — In a letter sent today to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Congressman Vern Buchanan requested a significant portion of new federal anti-drug money be directed to regions hardest hit by the drug epidemic, including Manatee and Sarasota counties. 

“I want to make sure that this funding goes where it’s needed most – Florida’s Suncoast,” Buchanan wrote in his letter. “My district is suffering and this money will help save lives.”

Buchanan said his congressional district deserves special consideration because it includes Manatee and Sarasota counties, which had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015. Fentanyl, also known as synthetic heroin, killed more Floridians than heroin in 2015, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, was responsible for 911 deaths compared to 779 killed by a heroin overdose.

In Manatee County, the local morgue was filled to capacity this past summer and the county was forced to store bodies at other facilities due to the spike in fentanyl and heroin-related deaths.

Buchanan also represents part of Hillsborough County, which he said should receive significant funding as well because it accounted for 12 percent of all babies born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2015.

Buchanan contacted Gov. Scott following last week’s announcement that nearly $500 million in federal aid will be distributed this year to states to confront the drug crisis. 

The grant funding is part of this year’s $485 million national allocation included in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill Buchanan strongly supported. Another $485 million national allocation will be sent to states next year. These programs take a multi-pronged approach to tackling drug problems by beefing up drug abuse treatment and prevention, training health care practitioners in best prescribing practices, and improving prescription monitoring.

Buchanan cited grim statistics to show the depth of the area’s drug problems. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission:

  • Manatee County had the highest number of cocaine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 of all 67 counties.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida morphine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida heroin deaths per capita in the state in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.
  • Manatee had the highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2014.

Heroin deaths in Florida spiked 80 percent in 2015 compared to the year prior, according to the latest data made available by the state’s medical examiners commission. The same report also cited the fact that statewide, fentanyl-related deaths increased by more than 77 percent from 2014 to 2015.

“Tragically, more than 3,200 Floridians lost their lives due to these drugs in 2015 alone,” Buchanan wrote. “This crisis requires an immediate and comprehensive solution.”


Earlier this year, Buchanan announced that he has co-sponsored the STOP Act (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act) – legislation that will toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States.

The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. In March, Buchanan hosted a meeting of the area’s top hospital executives about the problem. Last May, Buchanan chaired a hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. He also hosted a roundtable in Bradenton, Fla. with local police officers, medical professionals and stakeholders. Buchanan also chaired a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, DC where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts. Buchanan serves as co-chair of the Florida delegation. 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.  

Text of the letter below.

April 26, 2017

The Honorable Rick Scott
Governor
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Dear Governor Scott,

With my support, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 to help address the opioid crisis.  As a result of this legislation, Florida was awarded approximately $27 million in federal grants last week to help communities fund treatment and prevention programs. I want to make sure that this funding goes where it’s needed most – Florida’s Suncoast. My district is suffering and this money will help save lives.

As the opioid epidemic has gripped our state, families across Florida have watched their loved ones struggle with addiction. Tragically, more than 3,200 Floridians lost their lives due to these drugs in 2015 alone. This crisis requires an immediate and comprehensive solution.

My congressional district deserves special consideration for extra money because it includes Manatee and Sarasota counties, which saw the first- and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015. Fentanyl, also known as synthetic heroin, killed more Floridians than heroin in 2015, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, was responsible for 911 deaths compared to 779 killed by a heroin overdose.

I also represent part of Hillsborough County, which accounted for 12 percent of all babies born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2015.

In Manatee County, the local morgue was filled to capacity this past summer and the county was forced to store bodies at other facilities due to the spike in heroin-related deaths.

Grim statistics show the depth of the area’s drug problems. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission:

  • Manatee County had the highest number of cocaine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 of all 67 counties.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida morphine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida heroin deaths per capita in the state in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.
  • Manatee had the highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2014.

Our communities are coming together to combat this crisis.  For example, an outpatient center in Bradenton participates in a statewide program that combines medication-assisted treatment and counseling services to prevent cravings. More than 1,400 people have been helped by this program. But additional funding could allow this program – and other innovative approaches – to help even more people in their struggle with addiction. 

It’s clear that the opioid epidemic has had a terrible impact on Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. As you distribute these funds, I urge you to focus on helping communities that have borne the brunt of this crisis.

Sincerely,

Issues: