Florida Looking for Relief with Opioid Crisis Declaration

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Although he has not yet taken the formal legal steps to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, the President has indicated that he may do so. If so, numerous concerns surrounding addiction treatment funding could ease.

Drug rehab in Florida helps people struggling with an addiction to opioids and other substances find the help they need to enter sobriety and stay there. However, with recent funding cuts, health care providers and people who need treatment have logical concerns.

Why the Opioid Crisis Hits Florida Particularly Hard

Last year, the Florida Medical Examiner’s office recorded fewer overall drug-related deaths in certain counties, but for the state as a whole, the opioid crisis rages on. The Pensacola News Journal reports that in a 21 percent increase, 7,293 Florida residents died in 2015 as a result of opioid abuse.

The most commonly abused opioids, says the Pensacola News Journal, are Buprenorphine, heroin, fentanyl, codeine, and Oxymorphone. Each of those drugs was responsible for more deaths, at an increase of 102 percent, 74 percent, 69 percent, 57 percent and 42 percent respectively.

Beyond deaths directly attributed to opioids, thousands of Floridians die with opioids in their system. The Florida Behavioral Health Association adds:

  • Heroin use “more than doubled” in 18-to-25-year-olds in the past 10 years.
  • The majority of heroin users also use “at least one other drug”.
  • Nearly half of heroin users are also addicted to prescription painkillers.

The statistics are increasingly grim every year, which the President acknowledges. Hospitals also suffer. In 2010, Florida hospital costs related to the opioid crisis totaled about $460 million. In 2015, that number had skyrocketed to $1.5 billion and it still climbs. Funding to help people survive overdose and enter into sobriety is more critical now that it ever has been.

How Recent Funding Cuts Affect Access to Drug Rehab in Florida

Although the opioid crisis in Florida is certainly no secret, legislators have failed to ensure funding for treatment is there. Over $20 million in federal funding has quietly expired. The Naples Daily News says there is no guarantee of replacement funding.

In May, Governor Rick Scott took steps to declare a statewide public health emergency, and that helped bring in nearly $30 million in federal aid. Unfortunately for mental health care and substance abuse providers, the money is nowhere near enough. According to the Miami Herald, State Senator Jack Latvala says Florida needs an additional $20 million.

The Daily News explains that new funding on its way “can’t be used to replace basic services such as beds for crisis units, or detox or residential drug treatment programs.”

Central Florida Behavioral Health Network CEO, Linda McKinnon, tells the Daily News that the organization was not aware of the looming risk of lost funding. House health budget chair, Jason Brodeur, says otherwise. He knew about cuts but elected not to advocate on behalf of replacement funding because the State was in line to receive more overall funding for substance abuse and mental health care. Unfortunately, as Senator Latvala stresses, it is not enough.

On August 10, PBS published this video wherein the president acknowledged the critical nature of the opioid crisis and expressed his intention to declare an emergency:

Where the President Stands Today on Declaring a National Emergency

The Washington Post quotes the president as saying the “best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place.” In late July, the President was urged by his own commission to declare a national opioid emergency. As of late August, an official declaration has not been made.

One of the issues, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, is that a national emergency is “usually reserved” for outbreaks or other situations with a limited time scope, says the Post. He says it is possible to effect the same type of positive change without a formal declaration.

According to journalist Alicia Aunt at Medscape, a state of emergency “can activate needed personnel, increase funding, and address procedures and policies, such as Medicaid prohibition.”

“It certainly seems like there’s an opportunity here to prevent additional deaths” —Jay Butler, MD, chief medical officer and director of the Alaska Division of Public Health.

A White House spokesman told Medscape that the president is considering different options, including emergency authorities and other avenues. He explained that the president has “instructed his administration to take all appropriate and emergency measures to confront the opioid crisis.” The next steps are “under legal review.”

As Florida struggles to provide life-saving treatment to drug addicted people who need it, solutions at the state and federal level are still taking shape. There is no final word yet on how much funding the state will allocate toward Florida drug rehab access and other treatment options. Aid at the federal level is also unclear.

Time is of the essence, though. With vital funding expiring and future funding shrouded in uncertainty, the sooner people struggling with an addiction to opioids and other substances seek help, the better.

If you are struggling with an addiction, there is help for a healthier, sober future. Contact us today and learn more about what treatment options are available.

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