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State Lawmakers Discuss Opioid Crisis In Palm Beach County

Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County CEO Alton Taylor
Florida Channel

A bipartisan panel of Florida lawmakers is reaching out to local agencies to improve the response to Florida’s opioid crisis.

In the most recent medical examiners report on record, Palm Beach County outstripped any other district in opioid deaths.  Tuesday state lawmakers heard from local officials and advocates about what’s needed at the city and county level.

Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County CEO Alton Taylor urges lawmakers to fund treatment efforts.

“Let’s keep some of these beds online,” Taylor says.  “I’m not saying we need to go back to 574, but surely in a county with 1.4 million people, 160 beds is insufficient by any calculus.”

Florida is getting $27 million from the federal government to curb opioid abuse.  But at the same time, lawmakers cut the state’s contribution to similar efforts by $11 million in this year’s budget. 

Justin Kunzelman of Ebb Tide Treatment Centers
Credit Florida Channel
Justin Kunzelman of Ebb Tide Treatment Centers

Justin Kunzelman of Ebb Tide Treatment Centers wants lawmakers to help people fighting addiction rather than simply focusing on prevention.

“If we’re talking about education we need common sense education,” he says.  “I believe in prevention but I also believe that we are already in the midst of a crisis.  We must deal with the people who are in the midst of this crisis who are dying every day—my entire generation is gone.”

The meeting comes as the Department of Children and Families seeks $6 million over three years in additional federal grants.  Some lawmakers and service providers are frustrated the agency failed to notify them during this year’s legislative session that it had burned through more than $20 million in other federal funds.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.