Florida House members are considering cutting funding for programs that supply patients with a powerful addiction-fighting drug.
A Jacksonville addiction specialist says that move could make it harder to stem the opioid epidemic.
Vivitrol helps people addicted to heroin or opioid pills by blocking brain receptors. Unlike some opioid addiction medications, it doesn’t help patients with pain. It only helps stem cravings. The most effective version is a once-monthly injection that addicts can receive on the way out of rehab or jail.
The House budget proposal would cut millions of dollars for those programs.
Dr. Raymond Pomm is a Jacksonville addiction specialist leading a treatment pilot program at St. Vincent’s Riverside hospital.
“We need all the tools available to us to combat this epidemic, not start cutting back. In fact, there’s not enough money out there for services,” he said. “We’ve known that for quite a while, and to start reducing what little money there is — actually, I just can’t wrap my brain around it.”
House Health and Criminal Justice budget chairs are proposing a total funding cut for Vivitrol programs of $7 million, more than $5 million of which comes from corrections programs, while the remainder comes from partially state-funded community treatment programs.
On the other hand, state lawmakers are proposing $50 million to combat opioid addiction, and according to the News Service of Florida, that includes some medication-assisted programs.
Still, Pomm said, treatment would be less effective without Vivitrol.
“They already have that clean time. Giving them that injection just before discharge gives them a huge buffer, and [it’s] a preventative measure from using opioids again, and, again, saving lives,” he said.
Calls to House and Senate budget chairs were not returned by this story’s deadline.
Ryan Benk can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.