In recent years, Florida has seen a significant increase in heroin overdoses, often resulting in death.  Local communities need funding to help combat this dangerous epidemic through expanded access to medical interventions and addiction treatment.

Policy Objectives

The Florida Association of Counties SUPPORTS providing life-saving interventions, medically-assisted detoxification programs, and diversions from the criminal justice system for those suffering from opioid addiction.  The association also SUPPORTS efforts to stop opioid trafficking and increased penalties for dealers and traffickers whose actions result in loss of life.

Key Points

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), which combines the use of medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies, has been shown to significantly reduce opioid dependency.  Education and access for MAT should be expanded to medical providers and family members of individuals addicted to opioids.

 

The charges for possession of fentanyl should be reclassified to be considered trafficking due to the number of heroin-related arrests and purchases that have found to be pure Fentanyl which can lead to lethal overdoses. Fentanyl should be included as a trafficking classification equivalent to heroin under Florida State Statue Chapter 893.135.

 

Access to Naloxone should be expanded to ensure that first responders are able to provide life-saving medication while transporting individuals to the hospital.  Florida law should allow for wider distribution of naloxone and permit pharmacists to dispense naloxone.

 

The federal government should allow greater flexibility in the Medicaid program for justice-involved populations and should require states to suspend, rather than terminate, coverage for incarcerated individuals. Doing so will allow counties and cities to better coordinate systems of care and treat previously undiagnosed individuals with substance abuse disorders.

Background

The state of Florida has seen a significant increase in heroin overdose deaths in recent years.  It is currently estimated that a person in Florida dies of an opioid overdose every 2 ½ hours; roughly 10 people each day. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, the number of heroin overdose deaths have increased 124% between 2013 and 2014.  Florida’s crackdown on pill mills and doctor shopping for prescriptions for opioid pain medication has resulted in a reduction in the availability and an increased street price of narcotic medication.  This occurred as international heroin production has dramatically increased.  A critical factor in the increase in heroin-related deaths has been the increased practice of lacing heroin with fentanyl, a powerful opioid that can be lethal at very low levels.  Users are frequently unaware that heroin has been laced with fentanyl and the quantity is uncertain and inconsistent.  Because fentanyl is a highly potent opioid, even small changes in the amount and purity of the substance could potentially lead to overdose and death.  Florida’s Central, Suncoast, and Southeastern regions have been hardest hit.

Lisa M. Hurley, Esq.

Smith, Bryan & Myers

Click here to email Lisa

(850) 559-7458