Opioid crisis: Florida governor extends public health emergency order

Gov. Rick Scott’s public health emergency declaration in the fight against the opioid epidemic will be extended another 60 days.

Scott’s original executive order, signed May 3, had been set to expire Monday. But he signed an order Thursday extending the declaration for two more months.

Scott’s latest order comes two weeks after Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay sent a letter asking for the extension. Earlier this year, McKinlay was one of the first public officials to lobby Scott to issue the declaration.

“As this declaration nears the end of its initial 60-day authorization it is clear that the crisis is showing no signs of slowing down,’’ she said in a letter June 14 to Scott.

“The statistics continue to paint a dire picture: In Palm Beach County alone, there have already been 311 overdoses through the first five months of 2017, compared to 258 over the same period last year.”

The order allows the state to quickly draw from a two-year $54 million federal grant awarded to Florida on April 21 to provide prevention, treatment and recovery-support services. Without the order, it would have taken months for the state to distribute the money to local communities

The declaration also calls for Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip to issue a standing order requiring pharmacists to have on hand for first responders the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan.

McKinlay late this afternoon said she wouldn’t be surprised if Scott issues more extensions to the declaration later this year and possibly next year.

“The opioid epidemic continues to worsen in Florida and we need to do all we can to direct the proper resources towards our response efforts,’’ she said. “Recognizing the emergency order can only be issued and extended for 60-day periods, I thank the governor for issuing the first of what may become many extensions.’’

Earlier Thursday, McKinlay moderated a panel discussion on the opioid crisis at a Florida Association of Counties meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

McKinlay, in her June 14 letter, also asked Scott to make sure that treatment centers that receive money from the Department of Children and Families accept patients who use suboxone and other medically assisted treatment programs.

As of now, the Palm Beach County Health Care District is the only local public treatment facility that uses such programs, McKinlay said.

“I ask that you ensure that any facilities that receive funding through DCF follow these practices,’’ McKinlay wrote. Doing so, she said, will help “ensure that individuals suffering from opioid addiction are being provided the best opportunity to sustain recovery.’’

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