Senator Jack Latvala is calling Florida’s current opioid crisis an “existential threat to the people of our state”. As of right now, the state isn’t expecting to receive more funding until March of 2018, and this state Senator claims that if proper additional funding is not supplied, the death toll from opioid use could rise by over 2700. Latvala’s Letter to Gov. Rick Scott In his attempt to keep fighting the ongoing opioid crisis, Latvala called on Gov. Scott to reconsider the opioid funding and increase the amount by over 20 million. “There have been reports that suggest 14 Floridians have died every day in the first half of this year due to opioids, which is higher than the number of Floridians we have lost per day at the height of the pill mill crisis,” Latvala wrote in his letter. Florida’s citizens cannot wait until then for more financial resources to combat this public health crisis” he added. Latvala has participated in numerous meetings and conferences regarding the opioid crisis and isn’t just throwing out numbers. His letter outlines the specific uses for the money he is requesting. He believes the 20 million should be broken down to allocate 9 million for residential treatment, 5 million for detox, 3 million for outpatient, 2.4 million for prevention, and the rest for specialized services. After a hearing in Palm Beach, where there was a large turnout and plans made for further discussion, Latvala claims the number of people engaging in the conversation should be taken into consideration, claiming that it shows the high level of importance this crisis is currently holding. Earlier this year, the Senator announced the opioid crisis as a public health emergency and stands by this still. Florida’s Current State in the Opioid Crisis Florida’s fatal overdose rates are at a 36 percent increase from last year and still rising. “It’s killing more people a day than traffic accidents and than guns,” said Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. “There’s a lot more that could be done and needs to be done.” As senators and specialists are begging for more funding and support, Florida has actually cut its mental health and substance abuse funding. Although Florida ranks close to first in the drug abuse statistics, it ranks virtually last in financial support. With recognition of the severity of the opioid crisis, Florida officials and residents have been amping up their efforts, but there simply isn’t enough money to support the needs of the crisis. Latvala’s letter is hitting home to many who witness the severity every day, and Floridians are hoping Gov. Scott takes it as seriously as they do. “Governor Scott has been working with legislative leaders on further ways to help families who are struggling with addiction during the upcoming legislative session,” responded Lauren Schenone, a spokesperson for Scott. “Governor Scott will be announcing his legislative package to fight this national epidemic in the coming weeks, which will include significant increases of funding. We are hopeful the Legislature will support the Governor’s proposal. The Governor has been extremely focused on this issue and declared a public health emergency in May which provided $27 million in federal funds”. Benefits of Additional Funding Besides the obvious improvement of opioid-related issues, this increase in funding could potentially benefit the economy as a whole and employment rates. Since opioid abuse has taken over so many lives, employment rates have decreased, especially in states like Florida with a high abuse rate. If the funds are successful in combating the crisis, more residents will be back in the workforce contributing to the economy and reversing the decline in productivity. Latvala notes that this additional funding isn’t a one-way deal, it’s an investment for the future of Florida that could promise a positive return. Is More Money the Answer? 20 million dollars, especially if allocated in the way Latvala proposed, could potentially drastically decrease the number of fatalities, and increase the number of successful recoveries. But money alone just won’t do it. Latvala claims there needs to be a huge importance placed on the actions of first responders and medical professionals. The overwhelming number of calls they receive due to opioid complications needs to be addressed in a more efficient way. Extra funding could allow for more first responders on call and even designated teams for opioid-related cases. Government officials, including President Donald Trump, have verbally sided with Latvala’s stance, even publicly announcing the opioid crisis as a national emergency. The problem lies not with the words of these important figures, but their actions, or lack thereof. No one has signed any official forms or agreements allocating additional funding or setting a plan to change the current commission’s funding. Official responses to Latvala’s letter have not been made, but are projected to be announced prior to the first of next year. Getting Help at Wayside House If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help.We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 561-278-0055 to learn more.