Standing-room-only crowd of more than 250 people demanded action from Florida state officials to handle the opioid epidemic.
This was the first Governor’s heroin crisis workshop held at the West Palm Beach Police Department Community Room. For two hours the crowd begged for more tangible assistance from the state to combat our heroin crisis. Three more workshops are planned for this week. Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi were not in attendance at Monday’s first workshop.
But two top administration members didn’t rule out what many local leaders have been seeking since February – for Scott to declare a public health emergency to free up more money for treatment beds and other help. [Dr. Celeste Philip, the state surgeon general and Mike Carroll, secretary for the Department of children and Families told the crowd that they would take their concerns back to Tallahassee with them.]
“I will say this, coming from a family that was so impacted by addiction, there is life after addiction,” Carroll said. “There is hope. The answer is in the treatment.”
“The public shame we have as a community is we have a governor who says there’s plenty of money for tourism in this state but we can’t get detox beds,” said Joe Considine, a West Palm Beach attorney.
Scott’s most vocal critic Monday was Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay, who was among 23 local and state officials at a U-shaped workshop table.
“I’m angry and I’m not going to hold back because I have an opportunity to not hold back,’’ she said before reminding participants that she and other local leaders offered ideas to Bondi at a press conference about the epidemic earlier this year in Tallahassee.
“While I certainly appreciate all of us sitting around the table and having this conversation, we just did this in January in Tallahassee. We laid out of a plan of what was needed. Nothing was done.’’
McKinlay also pointed out that Scott declared a health emergency over the Zika virus, which has killed no one in Florida, but he has ignored multiple requests for help with the opioid epidemic, which killed more than 2,500 Floridians in 2015.
The tour continues today with workshops in Manatee and Orange counties. It concludes Wednesday after a meeting in Duval County. The crowds are expected to be as large as Monday’s.
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