U.S. House Passes Buchanan-Backed Bill to Combat Opioid Epidemic
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Tuesday passed legislation supported by Congressman Vern Buchanan to provide states with much-needed resources to combat the opioid crisis.
“As we continue to combat coronavirus, we also need to make sure we don’t ignore the spiraling drug epidemic,” Buchanan said. “These funds will help address a devastating problem in our region and throughout Florida.”
According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office, 52 opioid fatalities already have been recorded so far this year in Sarasota County quadruple the 13 fatalities in all of 2019. The number of non-fatal overdoses also skyrocketed, increasing from 88 in all of 2019 to 231 this year.
Manatee County also reported an increase in non-fatal overdoses, but at a much smaller pace with 646 so far this year versus 636 in all of 2019. There have already been 77 fatal overdoses in Manatee County -- the same number as in all of 2019.
Florida has been one of the most heavily hit states by the opioid epidemic with the third-highest number of fatal opioid overdoses in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Sarasota and Manatee counties have been heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic for years.
Specifically, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act would authorize $9 billion in funding over the next six years to help states including Florida combat the rising opioid epidemic.
State Opioid Response grants provide flexible funding to state governments to support prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. These funds can be used to provide additional treatment beds, hire workers to expand treatment and recovery options and train individuals to administer overdose reversal medication and other FDA-approved medications like methadone and buprenorphine. The State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act would codify this vital grant program for the next six years, giving states like Florida badly needed funding for treatment and prevention.
While current year data is so far incomplete at the national level, preliminary data shows that fatal opioid overdoses rose by 16 percent in the first three months of 2020 and more than 40 states have seen increases in overdoses since the pandemic began.
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 this still growing crisis. Additionally, reports have found that some treatment centers and recovery programs have been forced to close or scale back during the coronavirus.
Buchanan also supported House-passage of another bill, the FENTANYL Results Act, which would authorize the State Department to work with other countries to combat the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl into the United States.
Buchanan has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. Last year, Buchanan’s Fentanyl Sanctions Act (H.R. 2226) was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It imposed economic penalties on China-based drug manufacturers that knowingly send synthetic opioids to drug traffickers and criminal operations. In May, Buchanan called for additional federal funding for mental health services for senior citizens be included in any future coronavirus relief bill.