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Sarasota, Manatee receive federal funds to fight drug epidemic

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FLORIDA (WWSB) - Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Thursday that Florida will be receiving federal anti-drug funds to help ease the illegal substance problems plaguing Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

The new funding includes $18 million for treatment of people with substance abuse problems. Roughly $6 million will be divided among 14 counties, including Sarasota and Manatee.

Buchanan wrote to Gov. Rick Scott last month about the dire need for his district to receive funding.

The funding is part of a $485 million national allocation. Florida received $27 million in federal aid of which $9 million will be used to purchase naloxone kits, hire behavioral health specialists and for other anti-drug services. 

The funding level was widely supported by both political parties.  

Grim statistics show the depth of the Suncoast area’s drug problems. 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.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida morphine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee had the highest number of Florida heroin deaths per capita in the state in 2015 and 2014.
  • Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.
  • Manatee had the highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2014.

Heroin deaths in Florida spiked 80 percent in 2015 compared to the year prior, according to the latest data made available by the state’s medical examiners commission. The same report also cited the fact that statewide, fentanyl-related deaths increased by more than 77 percent from 2014 to 2015.

The new funding allocations were released by the Florida Department of Children and Families.