Aronberg wants to speak with Scott about opioid emergency


Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has joined a growing list of officials trying to get Gov. Rick Scott to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Aronberg, as head of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, sent a letter on Thursday to Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, asking her to contact the state surgeon general to arrange a meeting with Scott.

“To put this ongoing epidemic in perspective, the 2016 opioid overdose death toll in Florida should far exceed the tragedies of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor,” Aronberg wrote in the letter, which was distributed at a meeting of the Sober Home Task Force on Friday.

Aronberg’s request to Alonso came two days after the Palm Beach County Commission held a special meeting on the opioid crisis and voted unanimously to make a similar request of the governor.

After that meeting, Alonso vowed to send a letter to the governor the next day, asking for him to declare a public health emergency. By Friday, she had not written the letter, adding that she was having trouble wording such a request.

Alonso, who rarely attends meetings of the county’s sober home and heroin task forces, sat through the three-hour meeting on Friday but said nothing about Aronberg’s request. After the meeting, she said she supported Aronberg’s strategy for bringing the issue to the governor.

Local efforts to persuade Scott to declare a public health emergency began in February, when County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay sent a letter to Scott. McKinlay, who was deeply touched by the overdose death of the daughter of her then-chief aide, said such a declaration “would not only help raise awareness of the epidemic, but it would expand options to combat it.”

Two weeks later, Florida Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus joined the effort to persuade Scott to declare a public health emergency.

On March 17, Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath joined the letter-writing campaign, urging Scott to make a declaration of a public health emergency to help “marshal resources, implement new strategies and raise awareness so we can all more effectively combat this epidemic.”

Governors in other states have declared public health emergencies.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency in 2014, which gave him emergency powers to expand access to naloxone, also known as Narcan — a drug that revives an overdosing addict.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s declaration allowed Virginians to obtain naloxone without a prescription and created increased urgency and public awareness of the epidemic.

In Ohio, which leads the nation in opioid deaths, pressure has been intense for Gov. John Kasich to declare a public health emergency. However, there is no specific authority under Ohio law that allows him to do so, according to Kasich’s press secretary.

Florida law allows the state’s surgeon general to declare a public health emergency due to infectious diseases, chemical or nuclear agents, biological toxins, mass casualties or natural disasters.

In 2011, when the OxyContin “pill mill” epidemic was at its peak, lawmakers passed a bill declaring a public health emergency — which Scott signed. In February 2016, Scott and state health officials declared a public health emergency for Zika, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes that can cause serious neurological birth defects.

Appearing with Alonso on March 30 at a news conference on Zika at the Palm Beach County Health Department, Scott made his first public comments about requests to declare a public health emergency for the opioid crisis.

“I’m still reviewing it,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: Riviera cops looking for Dodge Charger in fatal shooting
UPDATE: Riviera cops looking for Dodge Charger in fatal shooting

A unidentified 23-year-old man was killed and his girlfriend injured in a shooting at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the 2600 block of West 28th Street, according to a spokeswoman for Riviera Beach police. Police are still searching for the man who jumped out of a dark-colored Dodge Charger and shot the 23-year-old when the man took cover in another vehicle...
Fox offers Bill O’Reilly big contract after $32 million settlement, Gretchen Carlson reacts
Fox offers Bill O’Reilly big contract after $32 million settlement, Gretchen Carlson reacts

Fox News offered Bill O’Reilly a $25 million contract even though O’Reilly had agreed to settle a sexual harassment claim for $32 million, according to The New York Times. The Times reported that O’Reilly settled out of court with former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl just months before he was dismissed from the network. O&rsquo...
NEW: Possible serial killer on loose after 3 murdered in Florida 
NEW: Possible serial killer on loose after 3 murdered in Florida 

A possible serial killer is on the loose in a Florida community.  Three people have been murdered in 10 days, the victims did not know one another and police have no leads, according to news reports.  The latest victim, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, had gotten off a bus in the historic Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. He was on his way...
Man dead after driver runs red light at Haverhill, investigators say
Man dead after driver runs red light at Haverhill, investigators say

A 26-year-old West Palm Beach man died when the truck he was in ran a red light just before 1 a.m. Sunday, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Initial reports from investigators indicate the truck’s driver is believed to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Merlin Arial Diaz Martinez was one of...
UPDATE: Fort Pierce police find missing 12-year-old girl
UPDATE: Fort Pierce police find missing 12-year-old girl

UPDATE 2:28p.m.: Fort Pierce police report that they found Veenya Casimir and that she is safe.  Original story: Fort Pierce police are asking for the public’s help in finding a 12-year-old girl who was last seen Friday evening. Veenya Casimir left her home on the 2500 block of S. Seventh Street around 5 p.m., when her mother called police...
More Stories