Walton County, Fla. - The deadly opioid epidemic is sweeping across Florida and state leaders and local authorities say they are ready to see a change.
Senator Jack Latvala sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott urging him to extend the Executive Order relating to the opioid crisis Florida is currently facing and asked to provide $20 million to address the issue.
"I've had a chance to speak to Sen. Latvala about this and as well, locally with State Sen. Gainer. Here is the reality of what I like about this bill, is it allows for customization for different counties," explained Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Walton County Sheriff's Office.
Opioids, which include prescription painkillers and drugs like heroin and fentanyl, are responsible for the large-scale human epidemic. The $20 million will go toward programs with mental health care and detox treatments.
"Walton County is not a county that has traditionally dealt with heroin but, you know, in the last year, we have had multiple overdose, deaths in this county from heroin. And, that is because heroin is actually cheaper, right now, than the prescriptions pills. So, it is a real, real dangerous situation," said Sheriff Adkinson.
One of the problems authorities say that is creating the opioid crisis, is over prescribing of narcotics and pain medications. This crisis doesn't discriminate. It knows no age, ethnicity or gender.
"We've seen people in their 70s that are opioid addicts. We've seen people in their teens that are opioid addicts. The real danger with this particular drug is that deprecious breathing and the heart rate," said Sheriff Adkinson.
Sheriff Adkinson says, he and his constituents recognize there is no way to completely stop the addiction.
"For law enforcement, or for the public in general, it's pay me now or pay me later. Either you deal with this issue early on or you will spend the rest of your, or somebody else's life dealing with these issues," explained Sheriff Adkinson.
State leaders say they are now changing their approach and focusing on prevention and recovery measures. Without the opioid Executive Order, Sen. Latvala says almost 3,000 more Floridians could die. Their hope for the $20 million is to provide opioid related direct care services.
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