Florida's Heroin Epidemic: A Public Health Crisis
Posted February 13, 2017, 05:45 am | Op-Ed
The Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute comes from Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who is asking Gov. Rick Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis.
This should be a no-brainer for Scott. With heroin-related hospital bills running at close to a billion a year in Florida, a governor who made millions as a hospital executive and reportedly aspires to higher office should take the state’s opioid addiction problem at least as seriously as McKinlay’s hometown newspaper.
For over two years, The Palm Beach Post has relentlessly pursued the hydra-headed heroin story. The Post has a disproportionate share of Florida’s best print, database, digital and visual journalists, and just about all of them have been deployed to expose the dark underside of the county’s booming medical tourism industry.
Fraudsters figured out how easy it was to get hapless insurance companies to pay tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary urine testing in the county’s burgeoning “sober home” industry.
It was a short hop from insurance fraud to illegal patient brokering. It was only a matter of time before addicts who had come to Florida in good faith with a hope of getting well were forced into prostitution and dying of overdoses.
Florida politicians and policymakers are locked into a 14th century “understanding” of addiction, and The Post continues to pour its heart and soul into shifting the paradigm. Day by day and document by document, the paper pursues the bad guys and educates the public and public officials.
The Post’s reporting provided a wake-up call and a road map for police and prosecutors. State Attorney David Aronberg‘s Sober Home Task Force has made 21 arrests, and more are on the way.
In 2015, your chances of sudden death by heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County was higher than the risk of death by homicide or traffic accident. Post reporters studied the autopsies, spoke with brokenhearted survivors of Palm Beach County’s 216 heroin victims, and issued a riveting special report called Heroin: Killer of a Generation.
Scott should read it as he considers McKinlay’s request. Bodies are piling up in the morgue located just eight minutes away from the winter White House; some have families and friends who read newspapers and vote.
Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant. Column courtesy of Politics Florida.
Layout by the Observer
This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.