opioid epidemic

There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the place where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court.

But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet.

"This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her.

"Good to see you," Stein says, smiling.

"We've got to do that after picture. We did the before," Judge Hannah reminds her.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is promising to make the opioid crisis a top priority in the coming legislative session.

Driving down the main commercial artery in Muncie, Ind., it seems the job market is doing well. The local unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent, and there are hiring signs posted outside the McDonald's, a pizza joint and at stop lights.

Around 2007 — the last time the market was so tight — job applicants came streaming through the offices of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency that screens and places about 120 workers a month, mostly at the local manufacturing firms.

Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than car accidents or gun violence.

Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day and, to mark the occasion, advocates and officials from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties will gather on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton to call for greater federal action to end the United States’s epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.

Rallies will be held in cities around the country.

Maureen Kielian is a parent advocate from Fort Lauderdale who helped organize the event.

Each year, more than 300 patients with chronic pain take part in a three-week program at the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Their complaints range widely, from specific problems such as intractable lower-back pain to systemic issues such as fibromyalgia. By the time patients enroll, many have tried just about everything to get their chronic pain under control. Half are taking opioids.

A year ago, Maine was one of the first states to set limits on opioid prescriptions. The goal in capping the dose of prescription painkillers a patient could get was to stem the flow of opioids that are fueling a nationwide epidemic of abuse.

Maine's law, considered the toughest in the U.S., is largely viewed as a success. But it has also been controversial — particularly among chronic pain patients who are reluctant to lose the medicine they say helps them function.

This week South Carolina decided to sue the maker OxyContin for deceptive marketing.

Widespread incidents of fraud have given the South Florida addiction treatment industry a black eye. Law enforcement has been cracking down — with strong support from the treatment industry’s legitimate providers.

For the third year in a row, the proposed Jacksonville city budget contains no money for updating or expanding the medical examiner’s office —that’s despite an increased workload and overcrowding from drug-overdose deaths.

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In Prince George's County, Md., every first responder carries naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

"We carry it in our first-in bags," says Bryan Spies, the county's battalion chief in charge of emergency services. "So whenever we arrive at a patient's side, it's in the bag, along with things like glucose, aspirin and oxygen."

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is wrapping up his tenure as president of the National Association of Counties with a plea for more federal help to fight the opioid crisis.

States across the country are struggling to hold off a rising tide of opioid abuse and Florida is no exception.  But the return of harsh penalties for possession—a hallmark of the war on drugs—is frustrating a broad spectrum of advocates and officials.

Parts of the stalled Senate health care bill could hurt those addicted to opioids, according to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. The Tampa Democrat says if the bill passes, it will limit access to substance abuse treatment.


Jacksonville City Council will soon consider funding a six-month pilot program to help treat opioid addiction with nearly $1.5 million city dollars. Councilman Bill Gulliford is introducing the bill Tuesday.


The Food and Drug Administration requested Thursday that the drugmaker Endo Pharmaceuticals stop selling Opana ER — its extended-release version of Opana.

The FDA says the move marks the first time the agency has taken steps to remove an opioid from the market because of "public health consequences of abuse."

At a health care conference in Jacksonville Tuesday, Florida’s surgeon general said help is on the way for Duval and other counties dealing with the opioid crisis.

More than $27 million federal dollars will be used in the regions most affected by addiction and overdoses. Counties are expected to get the extra federal funds as soon as June.


State health officials stopped in Jacksonville Wednesday to hear about how opioid abuse is affecting Northeast Florida. It was their fourth stop on a state tour, set up by Governor Rick Scott.  

TALLAHASSEE — Facing pressure to address drug overdoses across the state, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi rolled out plans Tuesday for a series of workshops and gave support for legislation focused on opioids and drug abuse.

Study: Medicare Beneficiaries May Face ‘Treatment Gap’ For Painkiller Abuse, Misuse

Jul 21, 2016
Getty Images

When most people think of the victims of the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, they seldom picture members of the Medicare set.

Opioid Epidemic Fueling Hospitalizations, Hospital Costs

May 3, 2016
Associated Press

Every day, headlines detail the casualties of the nation’s surge in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse: the funerals, the broken families and the patients cycling in and out of treatment. Now, a new study sheds light on another repercussion — how this public health problem is adding to the nation’s ballooning health care costs and who’s shouldering that burden.