BRADENTON, FL (WWSB) - An alarming statistic shows the opioid epidemic is still a problem in the state. More than 5,700 Floridians had traces of the drugs in their system at the time of their death in 2016. Now, Suncoast Congressman Vern Buchanan is taking action at the federal level.
"I'm a big fan of prevention, but treatment is critical once they go through the gate," said Buchanan at a press conference at Centerstone on Monday.
Buchanan doesn't want any other families to lose relatives to opioid addiction, which is why he's proposing the Opioid Emergency Response Act. It's a combination of seven different bills, focusing on research, prescribing alternative medications, and expanding seniors' access to treatment by allowing new providers to join Medicare.
"We have seniors that don't have the capability to get additional dollars in funding because Medicare doesn't give them the dollars they need to battle through some of this," explained Rep. Buchanan.
The legislation will also require researchers to study the link between opioids and the number of suicides among veterans, and will mandate more intensive screening by the U.S. Postal Service so drugs like fetanyl can't make its way into the U.S.
"My job is to eliminate the source but we have to work together to treat those who are suffering," stated Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells.
Buchanan will introduce the bill this week in the U.S. House of Representatives as part of an effort to eliminate the country's growing drug epidemic.
"We've made good progress, but we've got to continue the fight," said Buchanan.
The number of suspected overdose calls to the Manatee and Sarasota County sheriff's offices have drastically gone down in the first few months of 2018, with a nearly 80% decrease in Sarasota County and 75% decrease in Manatee compared to this time in 2017.
Copyright 2018 WWSB. All rights reserved.