- Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced the establishment of a first-of-its-kind substance abuse program to help alleviate the state’s ongoing opioid crisis
- The program will be coordinated through the Department of Health, Department of Children and Families, and the Agency for Health Care Administration
- Dr. Courtney Phillips will be the first Director of Opioid Recovery
- In July, nine people in Gadsden County died over the span of four days due to fentanyl overdoses, prompting state leaders to take measures to attenuate the issue
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday was joined by Florida health officials to announce the expansion of a new, piloted substance abuse and recovery network to disrupt the opioid epidemic.
The network of addiction care – Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) – is the first of its kind in the nation, coordinated through the Department of Health, Department of Children and Families, and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Dr. Courtney Phillips was announced as the first Statewide Director of Opioid Recovery.
“Biden’s border crisis has caused a massive infusion of drugs coming into our state,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This year we increased the penalties for individuals trafficking drugs in our state, and now we are giving Floridians the tools they need to break the substance abuse cycle. Substance abuse can affect any family at any time, so from education to law enforcement to treatment we are going to make sure that Floridians can take advantage of this new addiction recovery model.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record 107,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses and poisonings last year. Illicit fentanyl toxicity was the leading cause of mortality for American individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 in 2018, according to a FAF review of CDC data published in December 2021.
A consortium of Florida’s top leaders in early July met to discuss drug prevention strategies in Gadsden County nine people in the span of four days died after overdosing on fentanyl.
The influx of illicit drugs has led to a statewide fatal overdose count that comes close to matching 2021’s total number in just seven months.
State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, First Lady Casey DeSantis, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, Interim Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Mark Glass, and Secretary of the Department of Children and Families Shevaun Harris collectively brought attention to the influx of counterfeit drugs entering Florida at an increased rate compared to prior years.
Through investigation, the group stated that the drugs collectively originate south of the border before being shipped to hub cities like Atlanta, then filtering to communities in North Florida.
Glass claimed that 30 percent of drugs going through lab testing protocols return counterfeit, indicating that a higher concentration of drugs entering communities poses an even larger threat to public health and safety.
“It is so vital for individuals contending with a substance use disorder to have access to the right array of services that will work for their individual needs,” said Harris on Wednesday. “When agencies, stakeholders, and partners alike come together to bolster our state’s system of care, we can ensure that Floridians have access to comprehensive services when they need it most. Today’s announcement of the implementation of the CORE Network model throughout the state is yet another example of how the DeSantis administration is leveraging our state’s resources to help families move forward with dignity on their journey of recovery.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody in July encouraged President Joe Biden to utilize executive authority or ask Congress to designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, a step that would enable various sectors of the government to more adequately tackle the issue of illegal substances crossing the border.
Should the drug be deemed a weapon of mass destruction, government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon would be required to cooperate in order to work to stop the drug from entering and circulating within the United States.
“We are seeing mass incidences of overdoses, primarily fentanyl, occurring at an alarmingly exponential rate,” said Moody. “We’re seeing this because in Mexico, these drugs are being manufactured in mass quantities, and because of the open border, and the narco-traffickers who are having free reign across our border, there is plenty of supply here in the United States, and that makes it readily available and extraordinary cheap for these drug dealers to then lace it with other substances.”