Florida cuts off oxy: Death, devastation follow

With the best of intentions and the worst of plans, Florida’s long-delayed 2011 crackdown on pill mills ignited the heroin crisis, not just in Florida, but across more than half the country, a Palm Beach Post investigation found.
Florida hinders help for addicts

Florida hinders help for addicts

“The oldest medical treatment for addiction to heroin and powerful prescription opioids, methadone curbs cravings without generating highs. It paves the way for users to lead normal lives. It is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.”
In 2011, a national heroin epidemic was the equivalent of dry tinder, lacking only a match. Florida lit it up.

In 2011, a national heroin epidemic was the equivalent of dry tinder, lacking only a match. Florida lit it up.

Purdue Pharma and El Chapo had provided kindling: The pharma company’s unprecedented marketing campaign for its blockbuster OxyContin painkiller did not stop with pill sales. Purdue marketing helped ensure that for the first time in U.S. history, heavy doses of one of the most addictive substances known to man would be prescribed by family doctors for everything from sprained ankles to migraines...
Special Report: Generation Heroin

Special Report: Generation Heroin

In 2015, 216 died of heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County. We tell each of their stories, unveil a stigma buried in suburbia, and a failure of policy-makers to act against an epidemic taking more lives than car crashes or homicides.
Drive-thru window found at alleged drug house during police raid

Drive-thru window found at alleged drug house during police raid

Four drug overdoses led police to raid a drug house last week that had a drive-thru and walk-up window, the Ocala Police Department said. >> Read more trending news  Suspects William Parrish Jr. and McKenzee Dobbs were selling drugs out of a mobile home on Northwest 23rd Place near Northwest 35th Avenue Road and Northwest 21st Street, police said. Investigators said the home had signs indicating...
New study finds safe drug injection sites don’t decrease death rates, some experts disagree

New study finds safe drug injection sites don’t decrease death rates, some experts disagree

As local communities consider safe injection sites for drug addicts, an eye-opening new study casts doubt on whether they really make a difference in the opioid crisis.>> Read more trending news People can use drugs like heroin under medical supervision at those sites. The goal is to save lives and prevent the spread of disease. Every day, people line up outside Vancouver’s safe injection...
Opioid crisis creating drop in life expectancy among young adults in U.S.

Opioid crisis creating drop in life expectancy among young adults in U.S.

The United States is among 14 high-income countries with declining life expectancy rates, according to new research recently published in the British Medical Journal. >> Read more trending news  The research features findings from two separate observational studies, one pointing to the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S. as a key contributor to recent declines, and another...
Commentary: Time to get tough with China — on fentanyl

Commentary: Time to get tough with China — on fentanyl

As President Donald Trump’s trade war with China continues to escalate, there is a more urgent issue with China that remains overlooked: the continued illegal importation into the United States of the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl. According to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 59 percent of last year’s 50,000 opioid-related...
Editorial: Silvers’ freshman record merits another term in state House

Editorial: Silvers’ freshman record merits another term in state House

It’s not easy for a freshman legislator from the minority party to get a bill passed. But in his first stint in the Florida House of Representatives, David Silvers did just that. More than once. He sponsored a bill to cut down on the inhumane practice of sending children to psychiatric facilities via the Baker Act; incorporated into another bill, it was signed by Gov. Rick Scott into law...
Why local leaders aren’t celebrating a projected drop in opioid deaths

Why local leaders aren’t celebrating a projected drop in opioid deaths

The Palm Beach County medical examiner is projecting a 38 percent drop in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths countywide this year, a trend that would represent the first decrease since the local epidemic exploded more than three years ago. While community leaders acknowledged the projections as a rare positive development in their fight to curb the epidemic, they warned against interpreting...
Former NJ Governor Christie named exec chair of Juno Beach drug rehab

Former NJ Governor Christie named exec chair of Juno Beach drug rehab

The Beach House Center for Recovery in Juno Beach has  named former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as its executive chairman.   The Beach House made the announcement on July 12, a day after Christie toured the  147-bed facility on the center’s 5.3-acre campus.  Christie ran against President Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. He was later named...
Editorial: Florida bears moral duty to remedy harms of drug scourge

Editorial: Florida bears moral duty to remedy harms of drug scourge

In its sweeping series “Igniting the Heroin Epidemic,” The Palm Beach Post has told the remarkable story of the state of Florida’s key role in this century’s devastating addiction crisis: actions and inactions by uncomprehending state leaders that led to misery in places like Ohio and West Virginia as much as in Delray Beach. That tragic mistake is now in danger of repeating...
Post investigative reporter to discuss opioid issues on PBS

Post investigative reporter to discuss opioid issues on PBS

The Palm Beach Post’s Pat Beall will appear at 7:30 p.m. Friday on “Your South Florida,” a PBS show on WPBT Channel 2.  The show, hosted by Pam Giganti, will focus on the state’s new opioid prescription law.  Beall’s three-part series, “How Florida ignited the heroin epidemic,” traces the origins of today’s heroin epidemic to the...

POINT OF VIEW: Bill in Congress would help curb ex-con overdoses

Prisoners addicted to opioids are at an extremely high risk of overdose in the period right after their release. A bill that just passed the House is designed to help. Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999 Post-incarceration overdose risk is a consequence of how the body responds to the use and non-use of opioids. Long-term, regular use of opioids (e...
Opioid deaths declining? New numbers offer hope, says state attorney

Opioid deaths declining? New numbers offer hope, says state attorney

As the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the United States, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is embracing two new local statistics as evidence that their efforts to curb the county’s crisis are working. Delray Beach, considered the epicenter of the county’s epidemic, went through the month of June without recording a single opioid-related overdose...
No bond for sober home owner dubbed serial fraudster

No bond for sober home owner dubbed serial fraudster

Ken Bailynson, a former sober home operator described in a federal court on Friday as a serial fraudster, will remain in jail while he awaits trial on charges of money laundering and health care fraud. Federal Magistrate William Matthewman rejected bond, finding that Bailynson is a flight risk and poses an economic danger to the community. During the two-hour bond hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney...
‘Largest health-care fraud’ takedown ever nets 124 in South Florida

‘Largest health-care fraud’ takedown ever nets 124 in South Florida

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced today what he called “the largest health-care fraud takedown in history,” with more than 1,000 law enforcement officers charging 601 people — including 76 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 19 nurses — with more than $2 billion in fraud. The takedown included 124 defendants in South Florida — in locations from Wellington to West Palm Beach...
2 addiction treatment center owners indicted after reaping $50 million

2 addiction treatment center owners indicted after reaping $50 million

Federal prosecutors unsealed indictments on Wednesday charging eight people — sober home and drug treatment owners, employees and a doctor — with health care fraud and money laundering in two of the highest profile investigations in the crackdown on corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. Kenneth Bailynson, owner of the defunct Good Decisions Sober Living in West Palm...
Levine stumps on Greene’s turf; talks about drugs, high-tech incentives

Levine stumps on Greene’s turf; talks about drugs, high-tech incentives

On a day in which he literally campaigned on the turf of Democratic primary rival Jeff Greene, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine listened to local clergy and others discuss the opioid crisis Thursday in a conversation that also touched on marijuana legalization and racial disparities in drug enforcement. Levine, the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in several polls, spent...
Editorial: Growing opioid crisis straining Florida foster care system

Editorial: Growing opioid crisis straining Florida foster care system

Florida’s foster care system is under siege from an unexpected, unrelenting enemy: the opioid crisis. As a result, child welfare agencies statewide are grappling with a looming crisis of their own. Palm Beach County alone has seen a 115 percent increase in the number of children removed from homes in the last three months. “The amount of kids coming into the (foster care) system as a result...

Lucrative Florida prison health care contract under increasing scrutiny

Deep cuts to drug treatment, mental health and community re-entry programs across Florida are heightening scrutiny of a lucrative, prison health care contract poised to be finalized this month. The $375 million deal now on the table with Centurion of Florida allows it to take an 11.5 percent “administrative fee” that can not only cover a variety of costs, but also be pocketed by the company...
JUST IN: Lantana man arrested on 30 counts of patient-brokering

JUST IN: Lantana man arrested on 30 counts of patient-brokering

The fallout from the February 2017 arrest of treatment-center operator James Tomasso has led to another “patient brokering” arrest, this one of a Lantana man with a long history of drug-related charges, reports show. Shawtee Oates, 37, who had been listed as a fugitive, was booked late Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Jail. Oates appeared in court Thursday morning and was ordered...
Opioid crisis: cities, states use tobacco playbook to sue Big Pharma

Opioid crisis: cities, states use tobacco playbook to sue Big Pharma

Palm Beach County’s lawsuit against key pharmaceutical companies states that its case is about runaway corporate greed where profits were put above the health and well-being of consumers duped into believing addictive opioid painkillers were safe. Sound familiar? It should. It’s torn from the same playbook that brought another powerful industry — Big Tobacco — to the table...
Palm Beach County Commission declares opioid crisis a ‘public nuisance’

Palm Beach County Commission declares opioid crisis a ‘public nuisance’

With a unanimous 7-0 vote, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners decided on Tuesday to join the growing list of cities nationwide in declaring the opioid crisis a public nuisance. The vote, which comes less than a month after commissioners asked Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman to draft the ordinance highlighting the scourge of opiate addiction in Palm Beach County, pushes forward...

POINT OF VIEW: Ban drug companies’ ‘kickback’ activities with physicians

The Palm Beach Post recent series, “Pay to Prescribe? The Fentanyl Scandal,” (April 4) sheds a welcome light on one of the major contributing factors to the opioid crisis, pharmaceutical company manipulation of physicians. The heinous activities of the Insys Corp. were made public in the national media last year. The Post has now revealed the significant role of major players with local...
How a parent’s burden never ends with the disease of addiction

How a parent’s burden never ends with the disease of addiction

The disease of addiction tells many lies. Abusers tell themselves one more pill, one more hit, one more shot will be different this time. Addicts buy into the myth that it’s just a matter of willpower, that this time they will control the imperious urge to use. They just need to try harder. But the biggest lie they tell themselves may be that addiction is a victimless crime, that they are...
Powerful fentanyl cousins push rising death toll in Palm Beach County

Powerful fentanyl cousins push rising death toll in Palm Beach County

Early last year, fentanyl’s chemical cousins were killing a Palm Beach County person on average every day. The state hadn’t even been tracking that powerful class of drugs, which include the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, two years earlier. A collection of drugs related to heroin killed 81 Palm Beach County people in just May alone. It took almost all of 2011 and 2012 to kill the same...
County board wants ordinance declaring opioid crisis a public nuisance

County board wants ordinance declaring opioid crisis a public nuisance

Palm Beach County commissioners have directed County Attorney Denise Nieman to draft an ordinance declaring the opioids epidemic a public nuisance and making clear the county’s ability to recover money it is spending combating the crisis. The county filed suit last week against 29 drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, alleging that their negligence, fraud and deceptive marketing...
Florida fertile ground for drug company to sling fentanyl

Florida fertile ground for drug company to sling fentanyl

Florida, the reputed epicenter of the opioid crisis, served as fertile ground for a pharmaceutical company accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a powerful fentanyl spray. The Sunshine State topped the nation in 2014 and 2015 for patients and claims to Medicare for the medicine manufactured and marketed by Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid...
How Big Pharma uses psychology on doctors to do its bidding

How Big Pharma uses psychology on doctors to do its bidding

So why do physicians fall for pharmaceutical companies’ enticements? Why do they put all they worked for on the line, after all their schooling, the endless hours of residency, the difficulty of establishing themselves in their chosen specialty? It’s pretty simple, says a medical marketing expert: sales reps exploit doctors’ weaknesses with flattery and friendship. Drug company representatives...
Local doctor in indictment of fentanyl execs: I committed no crime

Local doctor in indictment of fentanyl execs: I committed no crime

A Palm Beach County physician — one of the nation’s top prescribers of a highly addictive fentanyl spray — believes he is one of 10 unidentified doctors described in a federal criminal indictment against executives of a pharmaceutical company prosecutors say bribed doctors to prescribe the drug. The indictment lists the 10 as “co-conspirator practitioners,” but Dr...
Editorial: Palm Beach County brings stinging case to court on opioids

Editorial: Palm Beach County brings stinging case to court on opioids

“This case is about one thing: corporate greed.” So begins the lawsuit filed by the government of Palm Beach County against the pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and sellers behind the opioid crisis that has cost this region so much in lives and money. The 266-page complaint lays out a compelling case that it wasn’t a public health crisis or a medical breakthrough or some...
Drug firms react to Palm Beach County suit, deny causing opioid crisis

Drug firms react to Palm Beach County suit, deny causing opioid crisis

Some of the companies being sued by Palm Beach County have acknowledged the devastation of the opioids epidemic, but they stopped short of admitting any role in creating or worsening it. “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” Bob Josephson, executive director of communications for Purdue...
Palm Beach County sues Wal-Mart, CVS, drug firms over opioid crisis

Palm Beach County sues Wal-Mart, CVS, drug firms over opioid crisis

Palm Beach County has filed suit against more than two dozen individuals and firms — including mega-companies like CVS, Wal-Mart and Johnson & Johnson — alleging that their negligence and deceptive trade practices have contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis. The 266-page complaint, filed Thursday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, is massive not only in size but in scope. It represents...
Ex-Boca school counselor used exotic dancer, models to push fentanyl

Ex-Boca school counselor used exotic dancer, models to push fentanyl

Alec Burlakoff once worked as a guidance counselor and basketball coach at a private Boca Raton prep school, but then he jumped into the cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals. It would never be the same. As national sales chief for Insys Therapeutics, he helped direct the hiring of a former exotic dancer from West Palm Beach, models and even a reality TV star who posed for Playboy to peddle one...
How The Post unearthed the local roots of the Insys story

How The Post unearthed the local roots of the Insys story

In tracing the roots of the opioid epidemic, Palm Beach Post investigative editor Holly Baltz researched local prescribers of oxycodone and found something curious. One Palm Beach County doctor ranked as a Top 10 prescriber nationally of an unusual fentanyl-based drug called Subsys. What was Subsys? That question prompted a nine-month investigation headed by Baltz and investigative...
Veteran, would-be lawyer, mom left dead or addicted after Subsys

Veteran, would-be lawyer, mom left dead or addicted after Subsys

An Iraq War veteran. A New Jersey woman planning her wedding. A grandmother from Jacksonville. A firefighter’s wife in South Carolina. All were prescribed a powerful spray fentanyl painkiller called Subsys, approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for breakthrough cancer pain. None had cancer. But many of their doctors received hundreds of thousands from the manufacturer of the...
Master salesman Burlakoff mixes ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ with Big Pharma

Master salesman Burlakoff mixes ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ with Big Pharma

Alec Burlakoff told his sales staff at Insys Therapeutics that “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the “best sales training video in history.” Now, the maverick salesman from Boca Raton faces federal criminal charges that he played fast and loose marketing a fentanyl spray. The movie, about machismo capitalism run amok in the pump-and-dump era of the 1980s and 1990s, also reflects...
County opioids lawyer accused of poaching clients in Flint water case

County opioids lawyer accused of poaching clients in Flint water case

One of the lawyers seeking to represent Palm Beach County in an opioids lawsuit has been accused of poaching clients and charging excessive fees in the lead poisoning cases from Flint, Mich. Palm Beach Gardens attorney Ted Leopold has filed a motion in federal court to have Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik removed as co-counsel in the Flint cases, saying Shkolnik’s “actions in entering...
BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

A woman identified by police as the operator of a Delray Beach sober home is charged with receiving at least $65,800 to refer residents to the London Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, whose owners were arrested last year by Palm Beach County's Sober Home Task Force. Betsy Dieujuste, 36, of Boca Raton was booked Thursday evening into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with 33 counts of patient...
Grieving moms’ pleas mean tougher sentence for Boynton sober home owner

Grieving moms’ pleas mean tougher sentence for Boynton sober home owner

When Albert Jones Saye was accused last year of turning drug addicts into cash cows to reap tens of thousands of dollars in illicit profits, he began cooperating with authorities, giving up the names of others involved in Palm Beach County’s nefarious sober house industry. On Thursday, grieving mothers dashed the 27-year-old Boynton Beach man’s hopes that he would be rewarded for his cooperation...
The strange tale of Wolfie and the addicts

The strange tale of Wolfie and the addicts

hen John Churchill came to town in early 2016 looking for answers about his son’s death, he brought a close friend — recently retired Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Maj. Ron Hartley.  They wanted to see the West Palm Beach house where Steven N. Churchill, 54, had died six months earlier of an accidental heroin overdose. “Every place has their dope holes,” said...
Florida Bar opinion complicates Palm Beach County opioids lawsuit plan

Florida Bar opinion complicates Palm Beach County opioids lawsuit plan

At least two Palm Beach County commissioners want a new team of lawyers to represent the county if it files suit against drug makers and distributors. The three-firm team of Stull, Stull and Brody, Napoli Shkolnik and the Ferraro Law Firm was selected by commissioners to represent the county in an opioids suit. Among the three finalists vying to represent the county, the Stull-Napoli-Ferraro team...
Lawyer Palm Beach County chose for opioid suit has controversy in past

Lawyer Palm Beach County chose for opioid suit has controversy in past

Paul Napoli has survived leukemia, a dispute with another firm over legal fees, an acrimonious split with a former law firm partner and a tabloid-feeding sex scandal involving a junior associate. Now, the New York lawyer is poised to help represent Palm Beach County in what could be one of the biggest court cases in the county’s history, a battle against drug manufacturers and distributors...
Editorial: Despite new law, Florida needs bigger commitment on opioids

Editorial: Despite new law, Florida needs bigger commitment on opioids

With plenty of pomp, Gov. Rick Scott came to Boca Raton on Monday to ceremoniously sign a high-profile bill designed to prevent Floridians from getting hooked on opioids. If only this new law were anywhere near as powerful as the addictions it hopes to combat. Although the governor last year declared a public health emergency, the reality is that he has done far too little to attack a crisis tied...
POINT OF VIEW: Congress must fund programs to treat opioid overdoses

POINT OF VIEW: Congress must fund programs to treat opioid overdoses

Far too many Floridians are affected by the national opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than 4,000 Floridians lost their lives after overdosing, so it is not surprising many of us can name a family member, friend or acquaintance affected by opioid overdoses. Our communities are in danger. The entire nation is talking about how to solve the opioid crisis and keep our citizens safe. Much of this conversation...
PBC taxpayers might not get full protection against costs in drug suit

PBC taxpayers might not get full protection against costs in drug suit

All of the law firms that have agreed to help Palm Beach County sue drug makers and distributors have extensive and diverse experience, winning hundreds of millions for their clients in complex, high-profile cases in recent years. For county taxpayers, that’s the good news. The bad news is that taking on drug makers and distributors, as financially and politically potent a set of adversaries...
Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County commissioners have selected a team of lawyers to represent the county if it files suit against drug makers and distributors to recoup costs spent battling the opioid epidemic. At the end of an all-day meeting Tuesday, the commissioners selected The Ferraro Law Firm of Miami and a pair of New York City firms, Napoli Skolnik and Stull, Stull and Brody. That team was the only one of...
NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

The owner of sober homes in Delray Beach and Lantana is facing 16 counts of steering patients to drug-treatment centers operated by his brother, according to an arrest report. Ronald Louis Tomasso, 59, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Monday night and was being held on $48,000 bail Tuesday after appearing before Judge Dina Keever-Agrama. James Tomasso, Ronald’s 58-year-old...
Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

In the waning hours of the annual session, the Florida Legislature approved tough new restrictions Friday on prescription drugs and agreed to spend more than $53 million on treatment and prevention to battle the state’s opioid crisis. Despite the issue being a top priority for the 2018 session, the final vote on the measure (HB 21) almost didn’t come as the Senate and House were at...
Drug distributors speak out against possible opioid suit by PBC

Drug distributors speak out against possible opioid suit by PBC

With Palm Beach County commissioners poised to consider filing suit against drug makers and distributors, important players have emerged opponents of such a move: drug makers and distributors. “The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders,” John Parker, senior vice president...
County turns to detox med to fight opiate crisis — and finds success

County turns to detox med to fight opiate crisis — and finds success

Dustin Dailey said he got hooked on opioids after he took one OxyContin pill to relieve the pain of his sciatica. He ended up a homeless beggar. Desperate last spring, he walked into JFK Medical Center and into a new program that uses medication to wean addicts off heroin. He became patient No. 3 of the pilot program spearheaded by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County that uses buprenorphine...
Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Three teams of law firms have emerged as the finalists to represent Palm Beach County if the county files suit against drug makers or sellers as part of its fight against the opioid epidemic. As the Florida Legislature just passed a bill Friday that will allocate $53 million to the state’s opioid-crisis fight, Palm Beach County commissioners are expected to choose one of those legal teams when...
Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

While the sponsor acknowledged his bill won’t solve the Florida’s problem with opioid abuse, the state House on Thursday unanimously passed a measure that includes imposing prescription limits. “I don’t think it (the problem) is going to completely go away, but I think this is a way for us to fight back,” Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said Thursday as he finished presenting...
Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

A Boynton Beach drug treatment center has paid $3.3 million for the 1.6-acre campus that was home to Gratitude House, a West Palm Beach drug treatment center that welcomed poor and pregnant addicts and their newborns for nearly 50 years. According to court records, 1700 Dixie LLC — a company owned by Denis Holmes, CEO of Beachway Therapy in Boynton Beach — bought the property on Feb. 23...
Needle exchange program could expand to Palm Beach County

Needle exchange program could expand to Palm Beach County

An effort to expand a needle-exchange program statewide was scrapped Tuesday by a House health care committee, but the committee did agree to extend the Miami-Dade County program to Palm Beach and Broward counties. The bill (HB 579) initially called for expanding statewide a pilot needle-exchange program run by the University of Miami in Miami-Dade County. The initial version of the bill also would...
UPDATE: Man found OD’ing pleads guilty to child neglect; woman in pre-trial program

UPDATE: Man found OD’ing pleads guilty to child neglect; woman in pre-trial program

Aug. 31, 2018, UPDATE: Andrew Otto pleaded guilty to one count of child neglect before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo Friday morning. He was sentenced to one day in jail with credit for the day he already served, according to court records. Lauren James was given pre-trial diversion, a program available to first-time offenders to avoid a conviction.  Original Story: Police...
Rader seeks $25 million more in Senate for fighting opioid epidemic

Rader seeks $25 million more in Senate for fighting opioid epidemic

Two Democratic senators are pushing to increase by $25 million the amount of funding the Senate has committed to addressing the state’s opioid problems in the upcoming year. Sen. Kevin Rader praised Senate leaders for proposing to spend $100 million on mental-health services and school-safety programs in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week that left 17 people...
Scott to sign bill putting statue of black educator in U.S. Capitol

Scott to sign bill putting statue of black educator in U.S. Capitol

Gov. Rick Scott plans to sign a bill that would lead to a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune replacing the likeness of a Confederate general as a representative of Florida in the U.S. Capitol. The Florida House voted 111-1 on Tuesday to support placing the statue of Bethune in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, replacing Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Rep....
Florida Medicaid program limits opioid prescriptions

Florida Medicaid program limits opioid prescriptions

As lawmakers consider proposals to limit opioid prescriptions, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is taking steps to do the same in the Florida Medicaid program. The Agency for Health Care Administration announced last week that, effective Monday, prescriptions for narcotics in the Medicaid program will be limited to a maximum seven-day supply. Medicaid also is no longer requiring prior authorization...
Editorial: Don’t let site setback derail county’s drug treatment aims

Editorial: Don’t let site setback derail county’s drug treatment aims

The news that a planned emergency room for opioid overdoses has been delayed because of problems with the site is disappointing — but not disheartening. On the contrary, it tells us Palm Beach County officials are intent on making drug treatment a key element in their fight against the opioid epidemic, the killer that claimed 600 lives here last year. And that’s rare. How rare? Well, President...
Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

A plan to open an emergency room dedicated exclusively to opioid overdoses suffered an unexpected setback this week when inspectors rejected the county’s first proposed site. Born of a brainstorming session, the proposed Addiction Stabilization Facility promises to be a “cutting edge” way to address an epidemic that is killing thousands across the United States, including 600 people...
NEW: Raising awareness of opioid ODs aim of new Boynton police video

NEW: Raising awareness of opioid ODs aim of new Boynton police video

A young woman sitting in her car lights up a piece of tin foil and injects a needle into her arm moments later. A police officer arrives and finds the woman passed out. The woman is rushed to a hospital, but not in time. She is dead. The scenario seen in a video released by the Boynton Beach Police Department on Friday morning was just a reenactment. But it is one of a scene that has become increasingly...
NEW: St. Lucie County Sheriff arrests 42 in ‘Big Mi-Steak’ drug sting 

NEW: St. Lucie County Sheriff arrests 42 in ‘Big Mi-Steak’ drug sting 

A long-term, undercover drug investigation led to 42 arrests in St. Lucie County, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.  The operation, called “Big Mi-Steak,” lasted seven months and resulted in the confiscation of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  Deputies also arrested four drug dealers responsible for the majority of drug deals in the county...
Police warning of dangerous new substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl

Police warning of dangerous new substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl

Law enforcement officials in northern Ohio are warning police agencies throughout the state about two substances dealers are using to lace heroin and fentanyl -- a powder called "Rizzy" and an analgesic substance called Bromadol.  >> Read more trending news  Rizzy is believed to cause flesh to rot and Bromadol is so powerful that specific side effects are not known. ...
Florida House budget plan has $50 million for opioid battle

Florida House budget plan has $50 million for opioid battle

The Florida House wants to target $50 million toward opioid treatment and prevention in the upcoming year and spend about $1 million on a statewide prescription-drug database, the top House health-care budget writer said Tuesday. Health Care Appropriations Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, rolled out a proposed $36.9 billion spending plan for health and human-services programs in the 2018-2019 fiscal...
Schnellenberger son, a former addict, aims to help others

Schnellenberger son, a former addict, aims to help others

Long before the U.S. was gripped in its current opioid epidemic, Tim Schnellenberger had battled — and recovered from — his own substance addiction. Now 50 and recently married, Schnellenberger — one of legendary football coach Howard Schnellenberger’s three sons — attained sobriety in 2000 and has been on a mission ever since to help others get sober. Tim’s brother...
Florida doctors wary of proposed painkiller prescription limits

Florida doctors wary of proposed painkiller prescription limits

Surgeons complain it’s too restrictive for patients who undergo major heart surgery or hip replacement. Emergency room doctors gripe they don’t have the time or resources to comply. And pharmacists say it needs to be tweaked. But the litany of suggestions offered by health care professionals over the past few weeks has done nothing to persuade key lawmakers to change a sweeping measure...
Editorial: Opioid-addicted babies collateral damage in drug epidemic

Editorial: Opioid-addicted babies collateral damage in drug epidemic

The most tragic, innocent casualties of the opioid crisis are lying in bassinets in hospitals like St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Screaming babies, bodies trembling from withdrawal, born to opioid-addicted mothers. Maybe they’re not as headline-grabbing as tales of children discovered in the backseats of cars with their parents passed out from drug overdoses in the front...
Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Battling the opioid epidemic is getting lots of attention during the 2018 legislative session – and that’s good news for Palm Beach County. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott restated his proposal to put up $53 million to help crush the heroin crisis. The next day, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a group of Palm Beach County business and community leaders that if elected governor he...
NEW: Jupiter heroin-related first-half ‘17 overdose numbers released

NEW: Jupiter heroin-related first-half ‘17 overdose numbers released

Last year’s spike in numbers of heroin-related overdoses in Jupiter shows the opioid epidemic is tightening its grim grip — at least in the first half of 2017. Calls to Jupiter police on heroin overdoses increased more than 400 percent last year between January and July compared to the same period in 2016. Eight died from heroin-related overdoses during the first seven months of last year...
BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

Two Wellington residents are facing prison terms after they pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court to participating in a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud and money-laundering scheme connected to their ownership of sober homes and a drug-treatment center, the Justice Department said Friday. Tovah Lynn Jasperson, 48, and Alan Martin Bostom, 75, were the owners of Angel’s Recovery, an alcohol-...
Sex-scandal issues cloud pomp of Florida Legislature’s opening day

Sex-scandal issues cloud pomp of Florida Legislature’s opening day

On Tuesday, Florida’s outgoing Republican governor detailed a wish list costing millions while the House speaker laid down the gauntlet against tax increases. Meanwhile, the Senate president put forth a hard stance against sexual harassment just as a fresh sex-related scandal involving two members of his chamber was unfolding. The 2018 Florida Legislature officially is in session. Opening day...
Police: Man who died from opioid OD paid dealer’s light bill for drugs

Police: Man who died from opioid OD paid dealer’s light bill for drugs

Travis Tekel would fix computers, hack credit cards, pay bills — anything for some heroin caps and a stick of Xanax. The 28-year-old was a computer genius with an opioid addiction and the brains to fuel it. Like an increasing number of addicts, Tekel died June 1 of a carfentanil overdose just hours after he’d paid a woman’s electric bill in exchange for what he likely thought was...

POINT OF VIEW: One action can help reverse the opioid epidemic

Across the nation, millions of families spent the holiday season mourning the loss of children, parents and other loved ones. As holiday shopping commenced, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Americans are dying younger — an unprecedented and frightening trend not seen since the 1960s. All because of an epidemic that is nothing short of a national emergency...
Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

The city of Delray Beach has had enough of the opioid crisis. And now, tired of draining its resources against a devastating drug scourge, city officials have taken the audacious step of suing Big Pharma in federal court. The legal action is a long-overdue attempt to recoup millions for fighting a national epidemic. It’s the first Florida city to join a growing number of communities across the...
Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Deaths from opioid overdoses in Palm Beach County during 2017 are expected to exceed those in 2016, but the jump won’t be nearly as drastic as in previous years. That’s the good news — and the bad — for an epidemic so epic that it has single-handedly reduced life expectancy in the United States. “I don’t know why the increase isn’t as big, and I...
Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Overdose deaths expected to rise, but not dramatically, in 2017

Deaths from opioid overdoses in Palm Beach County during 2017 are expected to exceed those in 2016, but the jump won’t be nearly as drastic as in previous years. That’s the good news — and the bad — for an epidemic so epic that it has single-handedly reduced life expectancy in the United States. “I don’t know why the increase isn’t as big, and I...
Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

If talking is the measure of tackling a major issue, 2017 was a year of progress in Palm Beach County. For example, the economic perils of a lack of workforce housing — helped by ever-tightening supply and Millennials’ complaints of sky-high rents — is no longer a tabled discussion. And overdose deaths, thanks in part to The Palm Beach Post’s own coverage, have moved from unheard...
Miracle plant or threat? Kratom users say it helps addiction, pain

Miracle plant or threat? Kratom users say it helps addiction, pain

Ali Noble is a Boynton Beach-area mom of a 2-year-old boy, a recovered opioid addict and a frequent victim of panic attacks. She credits her sobriety and serenity to working the 12 steps and a little green leaf getting a lot of attention from the federal government in the past few years — kratom. When she left substance abuse treatment in September 2014, like many recovered opioid addicts, she...
Trump, Tiger, clown killer: Top 10 Palm Beach County stories of 2017

Trump, Tiger, clown killer: Top 10 Palm Beach County stories of 2017

Storms were major news in Palm Beach County in 2017, from the glancing blow dealt by Hurricane Irma to the tumult surrounding visits from our most famous part-time resident, President Donald Trump. The county’s top ten stories of the year include an arrest in a sensational 27-year-old murder case and the prison sentence that put an end to the career of one of the most notorious figures in the...
Human teeth, heroin, gun found on alleged Walmart shoplifter

Human teeth, heroin, gun found on alleged Walmart shoplifter

South Carolina authorities are investigating an alleged shoplifter arrested at a Myrtle Beach-area Walmart after discovering human teeth, drugs, and a gun on him, according to local news outlets. >> Read more trending news  Police discovered more than 3,000 doses of heroin, marijuana and pills on suspect Tavon Malik Stanley, 21, of Calabash, North Carolina, according to the...
Christie: Are we painting PBC sober homes with too broad a brush?

Christie: Are we painting PBC sober homes with too broad a brush?

Matthew Anderson talks with his attorney during a court hearing in May. Anderson, owner of two Palm Beach County sober homes where police responded to 28 calls last year — including six overdoses — was arrested on multiple counts of patient brokering. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) As Palm Beach County seems to sink further into an opioid crisis that...

POINT OF VIEW: Treatment is vital to addicts’ recovery

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg testified recently to Congress about sober home abuses. While politicians, prosecutors and many others often speak about the two interchangeably, a sober living facility (aka sober home) is not the same as a substance use disorder treatment center (aka rehab, treatment center). Sober homes are group homes where people who are in recovery live together...
Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Drugs like fentanyl are now killing Floridians far faster than heroin and, as America’s opioid epidemic worsened, more Americans died from drug overdoses in one year than were killed in all of the Vietnam War, figures released this week show. The data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 1,566 Floridians died from a class of drugs that includes fentanyl in 2016...
Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington-based policy and research group, awarded its inaugural journalism award for fraud reporting to The Palm Beach Post for its work on fraud in the sober-home industry. Post investigative reporters Pat Beall and Christine Stapleton accepted the award Tuesday at the coalition’s annual meeting in Washington. The coalition praised The Post’s...
NEW: Doctor accused of prescribing drugs without exams arrested again

NEW: Doctor accused of prescribing drugs without exams arrested again

A 73-year-old doctor who was arrested in April for prescribing pain killers for cash and whose medical license suspended in October was arrested again this week, according to authorities. Peter Katz, who practices family medicine in Boynton Beach, was arrested Wednesday on charges of unlawful prescription and fraud, among others. The arrest comes after the Florida Department of Health issued an emergency...
NEW: Man faces trafficking charges as fentanyl, pills found in locker

NEW: Man faces trafficking charges as fentanyl, pills found in locker

A Wellington man is facing drug trafficking charges after investigators found stashes of drugs including fentanyl, cocaine, Adderall and marijuana in a storage locker he rented in suburban Boca Raton, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said. Jason Daniel Miller, 39, is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail and faces multiple drug trafficking charges and multiple charges of drug posession...
State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

The congressional representatives sitting on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations wanted to hear about patient brokering and sober home fraud. Tuesday morning, they got an earful from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his chief assistant, Al Johnson. “We have had a surge of unscrupulous individuals who prey on addicts,” said Aronberg. &ldquo...
POINT OF VIEW: The untold story of the opioid crisis

POINT OF VIEW: The untold story of the opioid crisis

The Palm Beach Post’s Nov. 15 story, “Why Palm Beach County is the ‘epicenter’ of the deadly opioid crisis,” bluntly lays out a significant tragedy occurring right outside our front doors. While the devastating number of deadly overdoses in our county – 571 last year – is certainly a crisis, my mind quickly shifts to those left behind. How many thousands have...
Opioid crisis: Palm Beach County looking for firms for Big Pharma suit

Opioid crisis: Palm Beach County looking for firms for Big Pharma suit

Want to represent Palm Beach County if it goes toe to toe with Big Pharma? Law firms could soon have that opportunity. Commissioners voted 7-0 Tuesday to have County Attorney Denise Nieman’s office begin crafting a request for proposals from firms that would represent the county should it decide to file suit against drug companies, manufacturers or pharmacies as part of its effort to combat...
If Palm Beach County sues big Pharma, 14 law firms interested

If Palm Beach County sues big Pharma, 14 law firms interested

Fourteen law firms — including seven based in Florida — have expressed an interest in representing Palm Beach County if it decides to file suit against opioid manufacturers, distributors or pharmacies, according to a report prepared by the county attorney’s office. At the suggestion of County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose former aide lost a daughter to the opioid...

POINT OF VIEW: Destigmatizing mental health in the legal profession

It was only October that the legal community lost one of our most vocal champions for mental health. As executive director of Florida Lawyers Assistance Inc., Michael Cohen spent the past 20 years advocating for attorneys struggling with substance abuse and mental illness. He also spent this same time recovering from his own battle with addiction. Cohen was a safety net to so many in need. My hope...
Florida man shoots up heroin during car chase, deputies say

Florida man shoots up heroin during car chase, deputies say

A Marion County man was arrested on suspicion of stealing a family member’s car, but it was what he was doing inside the car that got him deeper in trouble, deputies said. Deputies tried arresting John Quincey Stephens on Monday on a felony warrant at a family member’s home in Silver Springs, deputies said. Stephens stole the family’s vehicle and fled, deputies said. Stephens...
NEW: Accused drug dealer warns of heroin ‘dropping’ people ‘like crazy’

NEW: Accused drug dealer warns of heroin ‘dropping’ people ‘like crazy’

A Stuart man’s attempt to sell heroin Wednesday night did not go as he had hoped, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said. Instead, Charles Earl Zureich was overcome with emotion as he was taken into custody by sheriff’s detectives during an undercover drug transaction. He was taken to a hospital for observation before being booked into the Martin County Jail, the sheriff’s...
Opioid addiction wrecked my family, mother says

Opioid addiction wrecked my family, mother says

A grieving Jacksonville mother is sharing a powerful lesson about opioid addiction.  “My son would have sold my soul for his next high,” Mary Purvis said. “That's just how bad he had gotten." Purvis says the mother of her grandchildren was recently killed — and her son was shot.  Now, her son is missing.  For years, Purvis tried to help her son, Roy...

POINT OF VIEW: We can make it less profitable to traffic opioids

The president has declared what many of us experience first hand, the opioid epidemic is a national emergency. Frankly, with as many as 59,000 deaths in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible description. So many dedicated people in cities and towns, faith communities and schools, families and hospitals are fighting to save lives and help people escape addiction. But there are also...
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