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Hillsborough Allocates $13.7M To Fight Opioid Crisis

Emergency responders providing care to a patient in the back of an ambulance.
Peter Haden/WLRN
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Hillsborough commissioners on Wednesday voted to spend $13.7 million dollars over the next year to combat opioid addiction.

Most of the money will be spent on prevention and treatment but the county has also set aside funding for education and recovery. 

Commissioners acted amid a growing epidemic in Hillsborough, which saw more babies born addicted to opioids in 2016 than any other county in the state. Since 2012, more than 1,000 people have died in Hillsborough from opioid overdoses.

But only one in 10 people who need treatment are getting it, said Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman.

“We will break the cycle of addiction here in Hillsborough County,” Murman said. “This crosses over all socioeconomic boundaries. This is the rich, the poor, the middle-aged, this is adolescents, which is where we’re seeing our biggest rise in opioid deaths unfortunately.”

The county will pay for more beds at detox centers and provide treatment for those who can't afford it. It will support medication assisted treatments like methadone and Suboxone, two drugs that stop opioid cravings.

On the prevention side, the money will pay for increased access to Narcan, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. It will fund diversion programs that put addicts into treatment instead of the prison system. It will also pay for education programs for people who use the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan.  

The county will pay for the initiative with some of the money it collects for the Health Care Plan, which is supported by a half-cent sales tax and provides care for those who cannot afford it. It will also use federal and state funding.

“It’s an issue we have to embrace,” Murman said. “We know it’s impacting our county in a huge way.”

The county expects the initiative to save money over the long run in criminal and health care costs, Murman said.

The plan was developed by the county’s opioid task force, which was formed last year to address the opioid crisis.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.