Across the United States, people of all ages and from all walks of life have fallen prey to the addictive power of mind-altering substances. Whether it’s to alcohol, heroin, or some other substance, the disease of addiction ravages communities, families, and can turn individuals to mere shadows of their former selves. Further, we’re seeing substance abuse and addiction reach record highs across the country with experts agreeing that there’s hardly anyone who’s not been affected by addiction to some degree, whether directly or indirectly.
As addiction continues to be a pressing concern at both national and local levels, public officials — e.g., political figures, law enforcement, members of academia, etc. — continue searching for ways to mitigate or at least alleviate the chokehold that addiction has had on the United States. Of course, many of the current strategies that are being lobbied against addiction require one particularly elusive ingredient: funding.
Earlier this year, reports were released that detailed budget proposals out of the Florida House of Representatives. With the beginning of a new fiscal year ahead of us, these reports are common media fare surrounding the start of an actual new year; however, many elements of the proposed budget were found to be somewhat surprising. Further, final negotiations recently took place, effectively etching next year’s budget into stone. So what’s to be said for how the Florida House of Representatives is planning to battle opioid addiction in 2018 and 2019?
A proposed $50 million for opioid addiction
As mentioned above, the fight against addiction — and opioid addiction in particular — takes place at a couple of key levels. For instance, law enforcement officials are tasked with mitigating the smuggling of heroin across the U.S. border as well as the distribution of the drug throughout the country. Meanwhile, lawmakers are tasked with creating legislation that can simultaneously serve as a deterrent to involvement with opioids while also giving those addicted to opioids a means of getting their lives back; in essence, it’s a very precarious, delicate balance. As well, medical professionals and healthcare providers are focused on developing actionable strategies for the treatment of addiction. For each level, funding is required to facilitate the fight against opioid addiction.
It’s true that the entire United States has been affected by the opioid addiction epidemic; however, Florida is consistently among the states that has been most severely impacted by opioids. For this reason, striking the right balance in the federal budget is an extremely difficult task. In January of this year, reports were released that indicated the Florida House of Representatives would be seeking $50 million in federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic. More specifically, that funding would be used as part of the opioid addiction prevention and treatment efforts throughout the state. The $50 million requested as funding for Florida’s battle against the opioid epidemic was just a small amount of the total proposed $36.9 billion budget for all health and human services programs.
The state of opioid addiction in Florida
Have you ever heard of the expression “the Recovery Capital of the World?” This is a nickname that’s long been attributed to the State of Florida even though its status as a mecca for addiction recovery is a direct result of its long history as an apex for opioid abuse and addiction.
When OxyContin was launched as an incredibly powerful — and unbelievably addictive — prescription pain medication, Florida quickly became a favorite place to obtain the drug. In fact, substance abusers from all over the U.S. would travel to Florida, making appointments with multiple doctors in a single visit so as to obtain duplicate prescriptions that they could then take home with them; once they’d make it home with their prescriptions, they would have a personal supply for recreational use while selling any surplus to other drug users on the street. But as prescription opiates eventually became harder for drug abusers to get, many of them turned to heroin instead, resulting in Florida having a very high population of heroin addicts.
With opioid addiction being such a rampant threat in Florida, it makes sense that there would be a call for local addiction treatment options. This resulted in countless addiction treatment centers being opened throughout the state of Florida with areas like Delray Beach having a particularly high concentration of treatment facilities. The idea was to fight this epidemic right where it was the most concentrated; however, this head-on approach meant that a certain amount of funding would be needed to ensure that the fight wasn’t in vain.
Florida’s final 2018-2019 budget
Nobody would deny the pertinence and importance of effective strategies for alleviating the opioid epidemic; however, in light of the numerous budget cuts that have been occurring at the federal and national level, the creation of a new fiscal budget comes with a certain level of prioritization.
When the budget proposal was submitted, the requested amount for addressing the opioid epidemic in Florida was $54.2 million; in the end, the budget was approved for a slightly lesser amount of $53.6 million due to certain line items being removed. Specifically, Vivitrol was removed from the budget. As you may or may not be aware, Vivitrol — a drug consisting of naltrexone, which is familiar to most as an opiate blocker that has been used to treat opioid and alcohol addiction — is a newer medication that’s similar to Suboxone but in an injectable format. It has quickly gained a following due to individuals needing far less frequent doses of Vivitrol versus other medications used to address opioid addiction.
Besides the budget, there were some additional provisions included in the approved budget. For instance, the approved budget removed a provision that would’ve prevented insurance companies from limiting access to opioid addiction-treating drugs like Suboxone, methadone, and Vivitrol.
The approved budget will be spread accordingly to various opioid addiction prevention and treatment initiatives. In particular, a small amount of the budget will go toward improving the state’s prescription drug monitoring database and granting database access to various state agencies, including the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services.