Buchanan Receives Anti-Drug Award
“We Have Lots of Work Still To Do”
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today received Drug Free Manatee’s Champions of Prevention award, which is given to community leaders who have promoted drug prevention efforts.
The awards ceremony was held in Bradenton at Drug Free Manatee’s 14th Annual Red Ribbon Breakfast. This week (Oct. 23-31) is National Red Ribbon Week, during which drug prevention and education efforts are celebrated.
The Congressman received the Champions of Prevention award in the “State and Federal Advocacy” category.
“Congressman Buchanan has been a strong advocate in the fight against drug abuse,” Sharon Kramer, executive director of Drug Free Manatee, said. “He championed federal legislation that helped address the pill mills that gave Florida a black eye. And this year he co-sponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, signed by the president this summer, which recognizes that community-based coalitions are important to solving the addiction crisis. His leadership and work at the federal level has helped our community fight the local drug epidemic.”
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 and is currently experiencing a spike in drug overdoses. There have been already been nearly 900 overdoses and 60 deaths from heroin this year, according to local law enforcement. Shockingly, the Manatee County morgue has been out of space since July and has been forced to use off-site facilities. In addition, the medical examiner’s office has performed a record number of autopsies.
“This award highlights the importance of Congress as a partner in the anti-drug coalition,” Buchanan said. “I appreciate the recognition, but we have lots of work still to do.”
The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the heroin crisis in Florida. In May, Buchanan chaired a hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. Earlier this year he 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.
“The drug abuse and overdose situation in my district is so severe that Manatee County is now referred to as the drug death capital of Florida,” Buchanan said. “Local groups are doing amazing work fighting the heroin crisis and I’m trying to make sure that they have what they need from the federal level.”
Buchanan also has been at the forefront of the fight to crack down on drug abuse for years. 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.
The Manatee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (Drug Free Manatee) was founded in 2001. It is a substance abuse prevention coalition promoting safety, health and wellness in Manatee County.