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Fewer Patients, Rising HIV Rates Led To Armstrong's Downfall

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Florida Department of Health
The Florida Channel
Former Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong

 Florida lawmakers wrapped up their 2016 annual session last week, and as is always the case, a number of issues didn’t survive the process.

Most notably, the Senate failed to confirm Surgeon General John Armstrong, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top appointees. Armstrong, who also served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Health, is the first agency director not confirmed by the Senate since the mid-1990s.

Margie Menzel is a reporter in Tallahassee with the News Service of Florida. She told Mary Shedden of Health News Florida that no one single thing tripped up Armstrong's confirmation.

·         Why Armstrong is out: The most devastating questioning for Armstrong came from a supporter, Sen. Don Gaetz, former Senate president and widely regarded as someone who does their homework. His concern was the county health departments had seen a plummet of the number of people they were serving, 200,000 less patients than 2012.

·         What the abortion bills being considered by Gov. Rick Scott mean: They would basically bar public funding for organizations associated with abortion clinics and increase the regulations on those clinics. For instance, the clinics would have to have closer relationships with hospitals.

·         Lawmakers supported additional bills to increase the use of cannabis for medical treatment: First, under the bill, terminally ill patients would have access to marijuana. It would legalize full strength pot for the first time in the state, if signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, and that’s a big if. It was a way for lawmakers to express their frustration with a 2014 law they passed, which is not in effect for anyone who needs it. And that’s a low THC law for patients, including children with severe epilepsy.

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.
Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.