SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER OSCAR BRAYNON II CALLS ON GOVERNOR SCOTT TO
ISSUE EMERGENCY DECLARATION TO COMBAT FLORIDA’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, II on Monday sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott, calling on him to declare a public health emergency to launch an immediate response to the growing epidemic of opioid abuse in Florida.
“No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse. There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch, and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” wrote the Miami Gardens Democrat.
The numbers are staggering. According to recent news reports, numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show a nearly 80 percent increase in heroin deaths and 77 percent increase in fentanyl deaths in Florida from 2014 to 2015.
Leader Braynon noted that the governor has responded to previous threats to the public’s health through emergency declarations, including the 2011 multi-pronged strike on pill mills, and even the recent Zika infections in South Florida.
In 2011, for example, as oxycontin overdoses were killing as many as seven Floridians a day, the governor’s Surgeon General issued a public health emergency. And, last year, the governor declared a public health emergency after just nine cases of Zika were confirmed.
“This letter is to request that you issue a similar order urgently needed to address the growing threat and rising body count arising from Florida’s opioid-addiction crisis,” he wrote.
Leader Braynon’s call was made on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and echoes one made earlier this month by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.
“Not only are the lives of Floridians at stake, but resources of the public as an increasing number of unpaid charges for emergency hospital care are passed on to insurers and paying customers. To say nothing of the high financial burdens on local governments from the growing demands on first responders and the need for an increasing supply of the anti-overdose drug, naloxone. Or the terrible consequences that begin in the womb and continue well after birth with the tiniest victims of this crisis – the babies born to addicted mothers,” wrote Leader Braynon.
“This emergency will not end without our intervention and resources. I strongly urge you to take this first step and launch the response our state is still lacking.”
Should Governor Scott issue such a declaration, he would join the governors of Massachusetts and Virginia who have declared similar public health emergencies in order to combat the growing opioid addiction crisis.