Scott Proposes Opioid Legislation as Washington Wavers

Governor Rick Scott with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi presenting a medal at the October cabinet meeting. (Public domain photo by Office of the Governor.)

Opioid addiction has persisted for centuries as the development and abuse of opium-based drugs have been used by society for thousands of years.

The prevalence of this type of drug began with the invention of opium, which has been used to create drugs such as morphine, Percocet, OxyContin and heroin.

Despite the long-term pervasiveness of opioid addiction, the current crisis actually dates back to the 1990’s, when the pharmaceutical industry began vigorously marketing drugs such as OxyContin.

This influx of opioid prescriptions was the result of a now discredited letter published in a medical journal which lessened doctor’s fears about the potential for addiction.  

When the pharmaceutical industry became aware of these journals, they began to aggressively market these types of drugs, often in a fraudulent manner that focused on patient gratification and the elimination of pain.

Because these drugs were vigorously marketed and doctors were less concerned about potential risks, more people were taking prescription opioids than ever before.

For many, the reliance on pills then developed into a cheaper heroin addiction, leading to the parallel epidemics seen today.

Florida has had a particularly difficult time dealing with the opioid epidemic, as evidenced by the thousands of overdoses in the past few years.  This is why Governor Rick Scott announced on September 26 that he will call for an array of new proposals to fight the epidemic during the upcoming legislative session.

The most prominent feature of the proposal is $50 million in new funding to go towards drug treatment and counseling. The proposal also includes a mandatory three day limit on opioid prescriptions, and mandates that doctors prescribing pain pills must take part in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

This program is a statewide database that was created to prevent addicts from going to multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions.

As it stands now, not all doctors are required to be a part of this database, so making it mandatory may reduce the amount of pain pills being prescribed.

When Scott spoke about the legislation he related to this issue by saying, “growing up, my own family dealt with the struggle of substance abuse and I know firsthand how this painful issue causes families to worry and pray for help and healing. As states across the country continue to fight this national epidemic, we must make sure Florida is doing our part to help vulnerable individuals and keep our families safe.”

Florida is not the only state making an effort to combat the epidemic, the governors of Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts are also making strides in developing similar legislation. Many of these states have also tapped into Medicaid to help pay for drug treatment; however, Florida has yet to do so.

In August, President Trump said he would declare the a “national emergency” on opioids but never officially did.

Last Monday Trump again declared he would address the issue in the coming days. This action is projected to drastically speed up the process in addressing the issue and would alert Congress that more funding is needed. Unfortunately, those in Trump’s commission are concerned that even if he does make this declaration, he will not follow through with a real response.

At the state level, Scott is seemingly committed to propose his legislation during the 2018 session in January. More details regarding the legislation should be made available in the upcoming weeks.

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