Local leaders react to national opioid emergency - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Local leaders react to national opioid emergency

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Killing more people than homicides and car accidents, the opioid crisis is now a national public health emergency. President Donald Trump made the announcement Thursday afternoon, but what does it mean for local city and county governments? 

Local leaders are pleased that the declaration will put a spotlight on the opioid crisis, but as far as dollars and resources go, they are still waiting for help from the same type of declaration made by Governor Rick Scott in May. 

It's going to be six months since the governor issued a state-wide public health emergency to fight the opioid epidemic. Local firefighters, police, and city and county leaders are still waiting for some relief.

"We have 485 people dead in Palm Beach County [due to opioid-related overdoses] through the middle of September," said County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. "This epidemic is not getting better, it's getting worse." 

McKinlay said the county has not seen a plan to combat the crisis or additional dollars from the state. The county has put 3 million dollars aside to open an addiction receiving facility, among other hires at the Medical Examiner's Office. 

McKinlay doesn't see the national public health emergency having any impact on local governments. 

"We've put our money forward and we're trying to do what we can, but unless the state and federal government step in to help us, I just don't see it getting better," said McKinlay. 

On average, Commissioner McKinlay said fire departments are paying 40 dollars per dose of Narcan, the medicine used to reverse an opioid overdose. In Delray Beach, Mayor Cary Glickstein said firefighters responded to 1600 overdose calls in 2016 and each call cost taxpayers around 2,500 dollars. 

"In theory, these political announcements are important as a first step but we have yet to see any tangible results from the governor's declaration," said Mayor Glickstein. 

Governor's public health emergency declaration only lasts 60 days and is set to expire again next week. Commissioner McKinlay wrote to the Governor asking him to extend the declaration.

The Governor's Communications Director released this statement, "“Governor Scott is 100 percent committed to combating this national epidemic, which is why he recently proposed major legislation and more than $50 million in his recommended budget to combat opioid abuse in our state. The Governor appreciates the attention of President Trump and all our local, state and federal partners as we continue to work together to keep families safe.” – John Tupps, Communications Director for Governor Rick Scott.

The President's declaration will not add any new funds to combat the crisis, it will shift some federal money. Local leaders said they would have liked to see the President use the emergency assistance act to free up FEMA money. 

Right now there is an average waiting list of three weeks for publicly funded beds at the Drug Abuse Foundation in Delray Beach. There are less than 200 beds, only 23 of those are Palm Beach County-funded detox beds for a county serving 1.4 million people. 

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