With the number of opioid overdoses skyrocketing in Florida, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) said he will seek added federal funding for drug treatment and prevention in the next coronavirus relief bill.
According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office, the county has seen 29 opioid fatalities in the first half of this year, more than double the 13 opioid fatalities in all of 2019. The county has seen 121 non-fatal overdoses in the first six months of 2020, the sheriff’s office said, up from only 88 during the entire year in 2019.
In Manatee County, FL, opioid overdose deaths have increased from 46 for all of 2019, to 49 in the first six months of 2020. And for non-fatal overdoses, Manatee County reported 258 in 2019, and 388 so far this year.
Experts say that feelings of anxiety, social isolation, and depression resulting from the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the uncertainty of economic stability, are at least partially to blame for the increase in overdoses. Additionally, some treatment centers and recovery programs have been forced to scale back in response to social distancing measures.
Buchanan said he would be asking leaders from both parties to ensure federal funding for treatment and recovery centers is included in a new coronavirus relief bill, which may come as soon as later this month.
“The spike in drug overdoses in our region during the coronavirus pandemic is tragic and alarming,” Buchanan said. “We have to get treatment to those in need both in Southwest Florida and across the country. As we continue to combat the coronavirus, we need to make sure we are addressing other health impacts exacerbated by this pandemic.”
Statistics indicate the increase in overdoses is a national problem. According to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, a federal initiative that collects data from ambulance teams, hospitals, and the police, in March, overdoses jumped 18 percent. In April, overdoses jumped 29 percent. And in May, they jumped 42 percent.
“The opioid crisis has destroyed too many families and lives. We cannot forget about this crisis even during the coronavirus pandemic,” Buchanan said. “I will continue my work in Congress to make sure Florida has the resources it needs to help save lives and fight this epidemic.”