Heroin crisis: County commissioner “disappointed” by Governor’s lack of “urgency”

A week after asking Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency over the opioid crisis, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said Thursday she was “pretty disappointed” with the response she received from Scott’s office earlier this week.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

While in Tallahassee on Wednesday, McKinlay met with staff members of the Scott’s to discuss her letter, which cited statistics from The Palm Beach Post and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about the sharp rise in overdoses, deaths and hospital costs.

“I was pretty disappointed. They didn’t think a declaration was necessary,’’ she said in an interview with The Post.

“There didn’t seem to be any recognition of how urgent this crisis is, as your reporting and the numbers themselves have shown. It was frustrating, to say the least’’

Scott, a Republican, was not in Tallahassee that day, so McKinlay, a Democrat, did not meet with him. She said was encouraged to work with the Attorney General’s office, which Scott’s staff told her was so effective in helping shut down the OxyContin pill mills in Palm Beach County a few years ago.

But McKinlay said the AG’s office was so effective because the governor declared a public health emergency in 2011 over the pill-mill crisis.

She also pointed out that governors in other states have declared public health emergencies to address the crisis. But Scott’s office was not swayed.

“There didn’t seem to be any urgency by the governor’s staff to address the issue,’’ she said. “But I’m not giving up.’’

McKinlay said she was encouraged that U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, in remarks from the House floor in Washington on Thursday, called for more help for communities battling the epidemic

Also Thursday, McKinlay attended a House subcommittee hearing where State Attorney Dave Aronberg gave a Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force presentation on legislation to curb the epidemic and fraud in the addiction treatment industry.

On Wednesday, she will meet with more than 30 families affected by the opioid epidemic. The two-hour meeting, called Opioid Addiction Community Conversation, starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Main Library branch, 3650 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach.

Anyone interested in attending should email McKinlay’s staff at: kburke@pbcgov.org.

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