An alarming number of people are dying from drug overdoses in Broward County and Commissioners are hoping to strengthen the county’s ongoing efforts to curtail opioid drug abuse. Commissioners adopted a resolution supporting federal and state efforts to reduce the overprescribing of opioid medications and measures to strengthen prescription drug monitoring systems. The resolution was brought forward by Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca.
“According to the Broward Medical Examiner, 582 people died from drug overdoses last year, nearly double than from 2014 and up by 260 deaths in 2015. This is a major concern in Broward County and we must continue our efforts to stop this,” said LaMarca.
“About once a month, we’re seeing a new drug that we have to chase and figure out how to detect it. Once our laboratory identifies it we pass it on to all agencies. It’s a war we’re fighting. These are really dangerous drugs,” noted Broward Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak.
Statewide data shows opioids as the direct cause or a contributing factor in 3,896 deaths in 2015. Governor Rick Scott recently signed an emergency order declaring a Public Emergency across the state. The action allows Florida communities’ access to share $27 million in federal grant funds, money Broward County would use for treatment, prevention and education programs.
“These deaths are happening countywide and this money is needed for continued education, to get the word out and implement our strategy,” said Vice Mayor Beam Furr.
“Florida will use the majority of the grant funds to expand medication-assisted treatment and Broward’s Addiction and Recovery Center (BARC) will be considered for local funding. So I think we’re well positioned with the resources, organizations and agencies that we have to use this money to help turn around this huge public health crisis,” said Commissioner Nan Rich.
“The Medical Examiner’s office is seeing what’s happening on the street much faster than government can respond. The problem is our programs don’t always have the resources to respond fast enough. This is an extremely important issue to get behind,” said Commissioner Michael Udine.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can. We have to press forward and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness.
Commissioner Steve Geller noted that proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would have a negative impact on health care services. “One of those is treatment for drug addiction. So the plan that is being considered at the federal level would both eliminate required insurance treatment for opiates and also devastate the Medicaid budget,” said Geller.
The resolution supports the efforts of the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Justice and the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic and the Governor’s order directing a Public Health Emergency across the state.