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South Floridians Pack Opioid Workshop In West Palm Beach

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Peter Haden
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

South Floridians poured into a community room at the West Palm Beach Police Department Monday for the first of four public workshops around the state on combating the opioid crisis.

The tour was announced in early April by Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinley summed up the feeling in the room.

“I’m angry today,” said McKinley. “We just did this in January in Tallahassee. We held this press conference with the Attorney General. We had this conversation. We laid out a plan of what was needed. Nothing was done.”

Officials from the Florida Departments of Health, Children and Families, and Law Enforcement came to listen to suggestions.

Local officials, clinicians, advocates and families feel that the solutions have already been laid out.

The Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force issued a report in January detailing data-based recommendations — the result of hundreds of hours of work and analysis.

Palm Beach and Broward Counties are moving forward with action plans including prevention, treatment, and diversion.

And there are bills in the house and senate to clean up the recovery industry, crackdown on fentanyl dealers and limit opioid prescriptions.

Now, the people in the room want to see the laws pass and the Governor declare a public health emergency to help their communities fight the epidemic.

“The sense of urgency in turning all of these ideas on a local level into action I think was heard loud and clear,” said Secretary of Children and Families Mike Carroll. “I think we all agree that it’s time to act.”

Many in the room called on Governor Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency to combat the opioid epidemic, as he did for the thread of the zika virus last year.

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip was there. She says even if that happens, funding doesn’t come right away.

“What happened in [(sic) Zika — the declaration occurred in February, and funding was not made available until several months later when we saw that the delay in federal funding was longer than we expected,” said Philip.

Workshops will be held Tuesday and in Manatee and Orange Counties and Wednesday in Duval County.

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Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.