On Monday, in a state that can arguably be characterized as Ground Zero for the national opioid epidemic, a committee of clinicians, law enforcement officials and various other stakeholders forecasted a grim future for the state of drug prevention and treatment in Florida and around the country. Speaker after speaker outlined dark realities surrounding the Florida opioid addiction problem and the limited action taken to address it up to this point. The experts spoke in front of Florida lawmakers who were disheartened and chilled by the seemingly endless doom-and-gloom testimony. The Senate Health Policy Committee panel was convened to discuss what can be done to curb addiction at the state and national level.
The committee discussed, among other urgent issues related to Florida opioid addiction, the pill mill crackdown that took place in the state six years ago and compelled many prescription opioid users to turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to the increasingly scarce pills. Also discussed was the enormous disparity between the amount of drugs flowing into Florida and the much lower number of treatment beds available to help addicted residents. Florida continues to be plagued with a culture of substance abuse and overdose, regardless of measures taken to address the problem. Many are pointing to Palm Beach County’s pilot program that connects overdose victims to detox options while they’re in the hospital as a way forward for the rest of the state.
Governor Rick Scott has announced that he will ask congress for $50 million to address the Florida opioid addiction problem and is proposing a three-day limit on new prescriptions for opioids, though the prescriptions could be up to seven days under some conditions. Overdose deaths in Florida continue to escalate while lawmakers, treatment providers and clinicians continue to search for a way to solve the crisis. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are largely responsible for the uptick.