Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan, Hospital Leaders Vow To Fight Heroin Epidemic

Mar 21, 2016
Press Release
Congressman Tours St. Joseph’s Hospital-South

“Our Local Doctors and Nurses Are On The Front Lines of This Public Health Emergency”

RIVERVIEW — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today toured St. Joseph’s Hospital-South and met with hospital staff to discuss how the medical community and federal government can work hand in hand to help  prevent drug abuse.

“Combating the drug epidemic requires an all hands on deck approach, and I’m grateful to personally learn today about St. Joseph’s Hospital-South’s cutting edge work and commitment to their patients,” Buchanan said, noting that the facility opened in February 2015 and has rapidly become a vital component of the area’s health network.

Scott Smith, president of St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, accompanied Buchanan on the tour and said, “Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the devastating consequences of drug addiction. Beating back the heroin and drug epidemic requires support from all of our community leaders. We are thankful for Congressman Buchanan’s anti-drug efforts and were proud to show him the work that we’re doing at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South.”

The visit comes on the heels of Buchanan’s announcement that he is co-sponsoring sweeping legislation aimed at cutting off the flow of heroin into the United States as well as expanding education, prevention, and treatment programs.

“Our local doctors and nurses are on the front lines of this public health emergency,” Buchanan said. “I’m committed to doing everything in my power to provide additional resources so they can continue saving lives.” 

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. Heroin is considered the most addictive substance in the world and is cheaper to obtain than prescription narcotics.

Nationally, 125 Americans die from drug overdoses each day.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (H.R. 953) and the STOP ABUSE Act (H.R. 3719) represent a multipronged approach aimed at attacking the supply of drugs, preventing new victims through better education and helping those already addicted recover and lead productive lives. 

Key components of the two bills include:

  • Funding for state, local, and non-profit drug education efforts for teens and seniors. 
  • Providing grants for treatment and prevention to states, nonprofits, and municipalities.
  • Establishing a federal task force to develop best practices for pain medication.
  • Creating new veterans-specific drug treatment courts.
  • Reauthorizing High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Grants. The program coordinates federal, state and local law enforcement anti-drug trafficking efforts in specific, high-risk counties. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 21 Florida counties were designated as HIDTAs last year.   

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.