Citing reports that heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths and public health costs are exploding in numbers in Florida, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon called Monday for Florida to declare a public health emergency.
In a letter, Braynon urged Gov. Rick Scott to have Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare the public health emergency, which would give state agencies wider latitude to address the growing problem.
His call was made on behalf of the entire Florida Senate Democratic Caucus.
Braynon’s call echoes one made by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay two weeks ago. And that call follows media reports in the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald and elsewhere detailing the impacts, including 77 percent or better increases in deaths. Earlier this month The Post estimated the heroin epidemic is costing $1.1 billion a year in Florida hospital charges.
“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,” Braynon wrote. “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.”
Braynon noted that public health emergencies were declared in 2011 during the height of the pill mill epidemic and the Zika outbreak in South Florida last year.
“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.