Southwest Florida Gets $6 Million in Federal Drug Funds
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan said today the state’s distribution of federal anti-drug funds will help Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties fight a deadly heroin and opioid epidemic sweeping through the region.
The new funding was allocated to seven “managing entities” – groups selected by the governor to distribute $18 million for treatment of people with substance abuse problems. Roughly $6 million will be divided among 14 counties in Southwest Florida that include Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough.
“The drug epidemic has hit our region harder than any other and I wanted to make sure we received funding to address the problem,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan wrote to Gov. Rick Scott last month about the dire need for his district to receive funding.
The funding is part of a $485 million national allocation included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which Buchanan supported. Florida received $27 million in federal aid, of which $18 million was allocated to communities to provide treatment for individuals with addiction problems. The remaining $9 million will be used to purchase naloxone kits, hire behavioral health specialists and for other anti-drug services.
The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law by President Obama in December 2016. The law directs $500 million to anti-drug program grants within the Department of Health and Human Services. 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.
The funding level was widely supported by both parties.
Grim statistics show the depth of the Suncoast 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.
The new funding allocations were released by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The Congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. 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.
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.