Rick Scott’s Negligent Response to Florida’s Opioid Crisis
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is spending this week touring the Sunshine State, and he kicked off this latest P.R. blitz by signing a woefully inadequate opioid bill — which might give the appearance he cares about combating opioid abuse.
But Floridians know the truth: Rick Scott has been dangerously negligent, under funding, ignoring, and outright opposing measures to deal with the crisis, which has killed over 17,000 Floridians since he took office and killed an average of 14 Floridians per day in the first six months of 2016.
Floridians have been pleading with Rick Scott to do something about the heroin crisis for years to no avail. Last week the Tampa Bay Times editorial board wrote:
“Only a comprehensive, aggressive response coordinated by the federal and state governments will start to reverse the drug epidemic that is ravaging families and communities … The scale of the effort remains too small.”
Even Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in May, after years of crisis and months of pressure from Florida Democrats, is woefully inadequate.
Scott only plans to tap $38 million in federal and state money for treatment and prevention, which pales in comparison to the “roughly $1 billion per year to fight drug abuse” in Ohio — despite Florida having more opioid deaths according to recent estimates.
You read that right: Rick Scott’s commitment to the opioid crisis is 27 times smaller than Ohio’s, a state that’s about half the size.
The alarm bells have been ringing for years.
In 2011, Scott opposed a prescription drug database that would have helped law enforcement prevent “doctor shopping” — people who travel from one clinic to another, buying hundreds of doses of prescription drugs. Scott also opposes Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act which has helped immensely with drug treatment in other states and could help tens of thousands of Floridians.
Scott has also regularly ignored warnings from around the state to invest in treatment:
- In 2014, National Institute on Drug Abuse called the increase in heroin abuse an “epidemic” and pointed to the need for increased funding.
- In 2015 the Bradenton Herald editorial board called for investment in treatment: “while more money is not the answer to every problem,” they said, “in this case it would help tremendously.”
- In 2016, the Palm Beach Post said that “little to nothing is said” in Florida state government on the crisis and a “stronger response” was necessary.” That same year, the Sun Sentinel argued: “we must respond — as a community and a state — in a bigger way.”
Rick Scott is even “working closely” to craft the Trumpcare legislation with Republicans in Washington, all versions of which would make the opioid problem worse — gutting Medicaid and ripping care away from hundreds of thousands of people being treated for opioid addiction.
The Bottom Line
Under Rick Scott’s watch, thousands of Floridians have died from opioid abuse and he has done next to nothing to help them, and may even be making things worse.
His photo-ops and lip-service don’t change the fact that he’s actively fought against solutions that could have saved lives, and ignored calls for help for years. The funding he’s now proposing is so inadequate it would be comical, if the crisis in Florida’s cities and towns weren’t so serious. Floridians deserve better — and count on them to hold Rick Scott accountable for ignoring them during this crisis.