Local leaders seek state's help in opioid crisis

Local leaders are asking Governor Rick Scott for help to fight and fund the opioid epidemic in Florida.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay wrote a letter to the governor last month asking him to declare a public health emergency. Last week, Martin County Board of Commissioners followed and sent Governor Scott a similar letter.

Commissioner McKinlay says last year more than 500 people died from opioid overdoses in the county and county fire rescue responded to 4,000 calls. Each call costs Palm Beach County Fire Rescue about $1,500.

In the last 14 days, West Palm Beach firefighters took 68 boxes of Narcan from their main supply cabinet to restock fire trucks at all of their stations. They are having to order shipments of 60 boxes twice a month due to the overwhelming demand in supply.

"The drug hasn't changed, just the amount of them we have to get," said West Palm Beach Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brian Lamb. Lamb says a few years ago, the protocol was to only carry two boxes of Narcan in their medical box on the fire trucks. Now, they are carrying 5.

Commissioner McKinlay says in 2016 Palm Beach County Fire Rescue spent $205,346 on Narcan compared to $57,543 in 2015. West Palm Beach Fire Rescue spent $125,000 on Narcan last year.

"Things have to be moved around and adjusted so we can have the proper medication to give," said Battalion Chief Lamb.

Chief Lamb can't speak to what the money would have covered, for instance, equipment, hiring funds, overtime.

County Commissioner McKinlay is asking Governor Scott to declare a public health emergency to increase access to Narcan, increase detox and treatment beds, and create public awareness and education campaigns.

Governor Scott's press secretary confirmed the governor has received the letters and issued this statement:

"Governor Scott wants to ensure local communities have the resources they need to respond to this critical issue which is why his proposed budget includes $4 million to the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council, which provides financial assistance to local law enforcement agencies."

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