Buchanan highlights for Florida parents how federal funds will attack opioid crisis

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) on March 26 met in his Sarasota office with two Florida mothers who lost sons to the opioid scourge to detail how approximately $4 billion in federal funding will be used to address the ongoing epidemic plaguing the United States.

“Too many of our loved ones are dying every day in what has become the worst drug crisis in American history,” Rep. Buchanan said. “Our region is at the epicenter of the problem in Florida.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, H.R. 1625, which President Donald Trump signed into law on March 23 to fund the federal government, increased funds for drug treatment and prevention efforts from $1 billion to $4 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to a summary from Rep. Buchanan’s office.

The federal spending package also directs nearly $2 billion in state grants for treatment and prevention programs, the National Institutes of Health for research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect data, according to the summary.

During the meeting with Ruth Lyerly of Bradenton, Fla., and Cindy Bales of Sarasota, who have become anti-drug advocates, Rep. Buchanan also explained that H.R. 1625 directs $386 million to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prevent opioid abuse and promote treatment for American military veterans, and $1.7 billion to law enforcement agencies to secure borders, respond to overdoses and send low-level offenders to drug court instead of jail.

Lyerly and Bales told the congressman that they think progress is being made to prevent opioid addiction. However, they also said that more attention now must be focused on providing expanded addiction treatment options.

“Ruth and Cindy are doing a tremendous service to raise awareness of the opioid threat in our community. They understand that it will take a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic,” Rep. Buchanan said.

In Florida, deaths related to fentanyl – a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that’s similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent – increased 97 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. In May 2017, Buchanan helped secure $6 million in funding for drug treatment programs in 14 counties in southwest Florida under the 21st Century Cures Act to help combat the problem.

“The drug epidemic has hit our region harder than any other, and I wanted to make sure we received funding to address the problem,” Buchanan said at the time.