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Vern Buchanan asks Rick Scott to direct federal anti-drug money into his district

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Rep. Vern Buchanan is asking Gov. Rick Scott to send a “significant” amount of newly received federal anti-drug money to his congressional district, parts of which have been among of the hardest hit by the opioid drug crisis.

“I want to make sure that this funding goes where it’s needed most — Florida’s Suncoast,” he wrote in his letter. “My district is suffering and this money will help save lives.”

Florida will receive $27 million in funding from The 21st Century Cures Act to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state. A total of $485 million is being sent to the states for addressing the crisis of opioid addiction.

Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.

Fentanyl, also known as synthetic heroin, killed more Floridians than heroin in 2015, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, was responsible for 911 deaths compared to 779 killed by a heroin overdose.

Buchanan also represents part of Hillsborough County, which he said should receive significant funding as well because it accounted for 12 percent of all babies born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2015.

Buchanan contacted Scott following last week’s announcement that nearly $500 million in federal aid will be distributed this year to states to confront the drug crisis.  The grant funding is part of this year’s $485 million national allocation included in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill Buchanan strongly supported. Another $485 million national allocation will be sent to states next year. These programs take a multi-pronged approach to tackling drug problems by beefing up drug abuse treatment and prevention, training health care practitioners in best prescribing practices, and improving prescription monitoring.

According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, Manatee County had the highest number of cocaine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 of all 67 counties, the highest number of Florida morphine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 and the highest number of Florida heroin deaths per capita in the state in 2015 and 2014

Earlier this year, Buchanan announced that he has co-sponsored the STOP Act (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act), which would toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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