Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Opioid Deaths Explode in Sarasota County

Jul 7, 2020
Press Release

SARASOTA, Fla –  Responding to a shocking surge of drug overdose deaths in Sarasota County, Congressman Vern Buchanan said today he will seek extra funding for drug treatment and prevention in the next coronavirus relief bill.

Buchanan said figures he requested from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office reveal that 29 opioid fatalities have already been recorded for the first six months of this year —  more than double the 13 in all of 2019. The number of non-fatal overdoses also skyrocketed, according to the Sheriff’s office from 88 in all of 2019 to 121 in the first six months of this year.

Manatee County also reported an increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses but at a much smaller pace. Deaths in Manatee County have increased to 49 in the first six months of this year from 46 over the comparable time period last year. Non-fatal overdoses have also increased in Manatee County in the first six months of 2019 from 258 last year to 388 this year.

National experts blame the coronavirus pandemic at least in part for the increase in drug overdoses saying that the virus has worsened feelings of anxiety, social isolation and depression. The White House’s drug policy office has also pointed to economic uncertainties and precautions such as quarantines and lockdowns as exacerbating the drug crisis. Additionally, reports have found that some treatment centers and recovery programs have been forced to close or scale back during the coronavirus.

Buchanan said that as Congress prepares to consider another coronavirus relief bill, it should include funding to address an opioid surge in his region and across the country. The congressman said he will be discussing the issue with leaders from both parties to make sure the funding is addressed. Congress may vote later this month on additional funding related to coronavirus. 

“The spike in drug overdoses in our region during the coronavirus pandemic is tragic and alarming,” Buchanan said. “We have to get treatment to those in need both in Southwest Florida and across the country. As we continue to combat the coronavirus we need to make sure we are addressing other health impacts exacerbated by this pandemic.”

Nationally overdoses in the United States jumped 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, a federal initiative that collects data from ambulance teams, hospitals and police.

Buchanan continued, “The opioid crisis has destroyed too many families and lives. We cannot forget about this crisis even during the coronavirus pandemic. I will continue my work in Congress to make sure Florida has the resources it needs to help save lives and fight this epidemic.”

Last year, Buchanan’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act (H.R. 2226) was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It imposes economic penalties on China-based drug manufacturers that knowingly send synthetic opioids to drug traffickers and criminal operations.

In May, Buchanan called for additional funding for mental health services be included in any future coronavirus relief bill.

Congressman Buchanan has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. Buchanan’s bill to create a national database on the best ways for patients to manage pain and avoid opioid addiction, the Centralized Opioid Guidance Act, was signed into law last year. Two other Buchanan-backed bills were also signed into law during the last session of Congress, the INTERDICT Act to help stem the flow of illicit opioids and the STOP Act to toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States. In 2017, Buchanan was successful in securing millions of dollars in funding for our area of Southwest Florida to confront the opioid epidemic.

Buchanan has consistently pushed to raise awareness of the Suncoast’s drug problems including chairing a hearing examining the impact of addiction on families and children. Buchanan also hosted a roundtable in Bradenton with local police officers, medical professionals, and stakeholders and led a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts.