As overdose deaths spike across South Florida, federal funds are coming in to help the area fight the problem. Overall, the federal budget currently provides for $27 million to prevent, manage, and treat opioid addiction in the state of Florida. About $4.8 million of that amount will end up in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties and five smaller counties in South Florida.
The federal funding will provide for:
- More medication-assisted treatment for people who are trying to fight opiate addiction in recovery
- Increased access to naloxone, a lifesaving opiate overdose reversal medication
- Increased personnel to be on the front lines to address the opiate addiction problem
- Increased access to treatment services across the board
Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, serving Broward County, is slated to receive $1.5 million; the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network that serves Martin, Palm Beach, Okeechobee, Indian River, and St. Lucie Counties will receive $2.2 million, and the South Florida Behavioral Health Network, Inc., serving Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, will get $1.1 million.
Is it enough?
While this money will focus on increasing treatment efforts, a great deal of effort and focus is being placed on stopping drug trafficking into and through the state. Since South Florida is a gateway into the country for many illicit substances, state government officials have turned their attention to increasing the mandatory minimum sentences for those who are found guilty of drug trafficking while the rest of the country is making moves in their court systems to remove mandatory minimums and, in some cases, decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain substances.
It is an issue that is of huge concern for many people in Florida. Many believe it is the only way to discourage those who are contributing to the high death rates across the state, while others see mandatory minimums as no deterrent at all and a tool that only rips apart families and communities unnecessarily. While the governor is calling for an increased push to imprison those who break the law by bringing drugs into the state, grassroots organizations are calling for more treatment and a focus on healing that will allow families to stay together and help those who are in crisis to be able to support their families without turning to crime.
While the federal government is handing out money to manage the criminal aspect of drug trafficking, there is simultaneously a big push to make sweeping changes to healthcare in this country that would directly impact the accessibility of addiction treatment for our most vulnerable populations. While healthcare is expensive for many under the ACA, the proposed changes would completely remove it from reach for those who are without resources due to living in active addiction.
This is not a simple situation to address, but the outcome of the discussion will deeply impact the ability of Florida individuals and families to connect with treatment services, especially those who have some level of income. What we do know is that treatment works and is a far better investment of funds than aggressive imprisonment when addiction is the underlying issue or a person’s ability to support their family is at stake. Taking a new view on how best to handle the problem that addresses the needs that are so clearly evident in people’s choices is essential in helping to lower the rates of drug overdose and addiction in Florida and across the country.