U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, held a private meeting Friday with local hospital leaders to talk about the opioid epidemic.
While his visit was not announced until after it happened, he met with board chairs, chief executive officers and presidents of four hospitals, including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview.
According to a press release, the group discussed neonatal abstinence syndrome, where a baby is born withdrawing from an opioid, that has significantly affected newborns in Manatee and Sarasota counties, as previously reported by the Bradenton Herald.
The release also referenced the morgue overcapacity from a drug overdose death spike in the summer of 2016 and an increase of deaths per capita in 2015 due to drugs, which has disproportionately affected Manatee County with the highest number of deaths with fentanyl, cocaine and morphine than any other county.
“(Buchanan and the leaders) were happy to allow it to be made public after the fact due to the importance of the issue,” said Buchanan’s press secretary Gretchen Andersen in an email.
Andersen added that some of the topics discussed included “how prescription drug abuse continues to be a challenge even after the crack down on pill mills” and “the current health care landscape and the need to make sure costs come down for all parties.”
Buchanan announced last week that he co-sponsored a House bill that would target fentanyl-by-mail. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to increase the potency of heroin or replace it altogether.