By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County officials welcomed members of the medical, mental health and law enforcement community during a recent summit entitled “The State of the Opioid Crisis in Hillsborough County.’’
The summit was held at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, 4121 N. 50th St. in Tampa, organized by Suncoast Community Health Centers and included panel discussions with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman played a major role in bringing the event to the community, focusing on opioid overdoses in the county which, according to local officials began to spike in late 2014. In 2016, the majority of the county’s 197 fatal drug overdoses involved opioid use, County officials said.

As recorded by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner an increasing number of fatal overdoses involve heroin and fentanyl. From January 1 through July 31 of 2017 there were reportedly 35 deaths associated with fentanyl.

While the effort to address the problem reached Hillsborough County, Florida Gov. Rick Scott also announced plans to propose major legislation during the upcoming session and more than $50 million as part of his 2018-2019 recommended budget to combat opioid abuse in Florida.

The proposed legislation will include placing a three-day limit on prescribed opioids, unless strict conditions are met for a seven-day supply. The legislation will also require all healthcare professionals that prescribe or dispense medication to participate in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a statewide database that monitors controlled substance prescriptions.

Scott said that additional reforms to fight unlicensed pain management clinics, require continuing education courses on responsibly prescribing opioids and creating new opportunities for federal grant funding are in the works.

Scott’s proposed investment of more than $50 million is said to include funding for substance abuse treatment, counseling and recovery services, and the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “We are in the midst of a national opioid crisis claiming lives in Florida, and we must do everything we can to stop drug abuse and save lives.”

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