Much talk has surrounded the opioid epidemic in America, especially discussion on the topic of ways to combat the nationwide issue. States such as West Virginia and Ohio have faced this issue to its extreme, as both have some of the highest numbers of deaths per day due to overdoses. Florida is one state that has been in the shadows of media focus on the crisis, but has quietly battled with the problem for years. Earlier this year, news of change involving Governor Rick Scott and his plans to take action circulated–but are those plans feasible, and have they since improved matters in the Sunshine State or largely dismissed them?
In May, the Miami Herald announced Scott’s official declaration of a public health emergency as a result of the opioid crisis in Florida. Yet the issue has long been prominent, as the Herald points out that in 2015, opioids were the direct cause of 2,538 deaths in the state. So, why might state officials only now be rising to action? Reports show that Scott refused to declare the state emergency just months ago, but was pressed to make the announcement by fellow legislators. Nevertheless, the governor’s decision to declare the emergency has been lauded by Floridians statewide. Scott’s main focus, according to the Herald, is the securing of funding to assist in addressing the epidemic in the future, as well as stocking Naloxen, a drug used to counteract opioid overdoses.
The Tampa Bay Times sheds a more critical light on Scott’s steps toward a solution, noting in an article last month that some state officials accuse the governor of largely ignoring the problem for far too long. The Times shares that liberal super PAC American Bridge is accusing Scott of remaining indifferent in crucial moments of the opioid epidemic, which kills on average 14 people per day in the state. Despite Scott’s efforts to accumulate funding for state aid, American Bridge spokesman Joshua Karp points out that Scott did away with the Office of Drug Control and shut down proposals to expand Medicaid. The American Bridge also heavily criticizes the state official for refusing to sue the pharmaceutical companies who played a role in popularizing prescription drugs to vulnerable patients.