U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants the federal government to provide immediate assistance to Manatee County as local officials struggle to respond to another spike in heroin overdoses and deaths.
As of Monday morning, Manatee County paramedics have responded to 447 overdose calls since June 1, according to Manatee County EMS Deputy Chief Jake Saur.
One of those overdoses occurred Monday morning at the Wawa gas station on the corner of U.S. 41 and 53rd Avenue West. A sales associate said she has definitely seen an increase of overdoses over the past year and often finds needles in the bathrooms.
“It’s scary,” she said.
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Since Jan. 1, paramedics have administered 1,119 does of naloxone, which counters the effects of an overdose, to 686 patients, according to Saur.
Saur said that number reflects the calls made as an overdose, but EMS could respond to more overdoses called in under a different code. EMS is trying to keep medical supplies in stock, but the epidemic is as bad or worse than last year when Manatee achieved the ignoble designation as the epicenter of Florida’s heroin crisis.
In a letter to federal officials, Buchanan, R-Sarasota, requested immediate funding to Manatee County under the recently enacted Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.
The letter, sent to National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, specified Manatee County because of the spike in drug-related overdoses.
“The heroin epidemic has inflicted physical and mental harm to countless children of drug-addicted parents,” Buchanan wrote. “In fact, drug abuse among parents is a major reason why so many children are placed in foster care.” The Bradenton Herald first reported on the spike in children removed from homes because of their parents’ heroin abuse in June 2015, and the problem continues to plague Manatee County.
The CARA legislation, signed by President Barack Obama on Saturday, authorized $181 million for increased availability of naloxone, for treatment of incarcerated addicts and for prescription drug monitoring programs.
Many, including Obama, do not think the authorized funding was enough. The president asked Congress for $1.1 billion in the anti-drug fight.
“With these resources addiction treatment centers, law enforcement agencies, and medical professionals can expand their efforts to prevent opioid abuse, treat those already addicted, and blunt the flow of opioids and heroin flowing into Manatee County,” Buchanan wrote.
On Tuesday afternoon, Buchanan will visit the Safe Children Coalition, 5729 Manatee Ave. W., to discuss federal efforts to protect children of heroin-addicted parents. Lisa Mayrose, regional managing director of the Department of Children and Families, and Brena Slater, vice president of Sarasota YMCA’s Safe Children Coalition, will be in attendance.