Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Talks Heroin Crisis with Hospital Leaders

Mar 3, 2017
Press Release
Florida Heroin Deaths Spiked 80% in 2015

SARASOTA — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan held a roundtable discussion today with Suncoast hospital leaders to discuss how to confront the opioid and heroin crisis in Florida.

Attendees included presidents, chairs of the board and chief executive officers with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital-South.

Buchanan (center) speaks with Suncoast hospital leaders

Buchanan’s district includes Manatee County, the epicenter of Florida’s heroin crisis. Due to the spike in heroin-related deaths, the local morgue was filled to capacity this summer and forced to store bodies at other facilities.

David Verinder, president and chief executive officer of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, discussed the drug epidemic’s impact on opioid-addicted newborns. A total of 2,487 babies in Florida showed signs of drug withdrawal or were otherwise affected by exposure to narcotics in 2015, a 30 percent increase from the year prior according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

The roundtable comes on the heels of Buchanan’s announcement 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.

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.

“The drug crisis is taking too many of our loved ones from us each day,” Buchanan said. “Doctors, nurses and first responders need help to fight the mounting number of overdoses. I’m committed to pushing for additional resources here in Southwest Florida to address this public health emergency.”  

The group also discussed the American health care system.

Roundtable participants included:

  • David Verinder, president and chief executive officer, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
  • Greg Carter, chair of the board, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
  • Robert Meade, chief executive officer, Doctors Hospital in Sarasota
  • Shannon Staub, chair of the board, Doctors Hospital in Sarasota
  • Andy Guz, chief executive officer, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, Lakewood Ranch
  • Matt Novak, president, St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, Riverview