Members of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation met Friday in St. Petersburg to give a heads-up on what their priorities will be during the upcoming session. Mental health counseling, criminal justice reform and substance abuse should be on the agenda.
State Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg said as a recovering addict, he understands the destruction an addiction can leave in its wake.
He's working on a $25 million appropriation that would, among other things, expand drug court and divert more resources from jailing first-time offenders into treatment programs. He also wants to start what he calls "care coordination."
"Which means when the frequent overdoser goes to the emergency room, gets a shot of Narcan (nasal spray to reverse an opioid overdose) and is turned back out to the streets," Rouson said, "instead of handing them back to the streets, we hand them to treatment. We hand them off to counseling. To care."
Rouson says he's also working to establish and office of drug control stratgy - one person who coordinates the state's different agencies - which was eliminated under former Gov. Rick Scott.
Rouson, whose district includes parts of St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County, is chair of the legislative delegations for both counties. He spoke at the Green Bench Brewing Co. in St. Petersburg, at a forum sponsored by the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
He spoke alongside newly-elected Representatives Jennifer Webb and Nick DeCeglie, Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg and State Sen. Jeff Brandes. Brandes mentioned several bills he's proposing, including one that would license mid-level dentists, who could provide treatment in rural areas where there is a shortage of dentists.