With maybe only a few days before Congress adjourns, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said the time is now for the federal government to fund efforts to fight the Zika virus and the heroin epidemic.
“Lives are at stake if Congress fails to act on both of these critical issues,” Buchanan said in a news release.
Buchanan urged congressional leaders to include “meaningful resources” to fight Zika and the heroin epidemic in a must-pass government funding bill.
“Congress has a duty to protect the public’s health,” Buchanan said. “Both Zika and drug abuse are spreading and pose a grave threat to Americans. These issues demand immediate federal action.”
More from Buchanan’s release:
Buchanan’s call to action arrives as top government health officials continue to warn Congress that money to combat Zika will run out by the end of the month. As of Sept. 14, there were 3,176 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S.
Nationwide, 731 pregnant women are infected with Zika, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and prevention (CDC).
Florida is ground zero for the Zika virus, and the sole state in the nation to have confirmed local transmission of the disease. The state’s health department reported 79 locally transmitted cases as of Friday. In all, 835 people have contracted the disease across the state, including 86 pregnant women.
“Zika has established a foothold in Florida, and we must give our disease-fighters the resources they need to combat the virus,” Buchanan said. “We are now past the 11th hour.”
The Congressman also urged House and Senate leadership to include in the continuing resolution additional funding to curb the country’s deadly heroin epidemic. Across the nation heroin-related deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, according to the CDC.
Buchanan represents Manatee County, the epicenter of the heroin crisis in Florida. Manatee County recorded more heroin-related deaths per capita than any of the other 66 Florida counties in 2014.
“Communities across the country are shouldering an incredible burden,” Buchanan said. “The heroin crisis in Southwest Florida is so devastating and families, law enforcement and first-responders are all feeling the impact. More federal resources need to be directed to communities like mine in order for us to adequately fight back against this scourge of killer drugs.”