In dozens of other states, you can buy Narcan over the counter, no prescription needed. In one northeast city, a doctor wrote an “open prescription” so that anyone could go into any drugstore and buy the life-saving drug.
But not in Florida, home to unprecedented numbers of heroin overdoses.
It’s taken a while- a few years, actually- but today Gov. Rick Scott signed off on a pilot program in Miami-Dade County, run by the University of Miami, which establishes a needle exchange for addicts.
Once politically unthinkable, the state’s soaring rates of IV drug use- and deaths- have slowly made the idea of providing clean needles to addicts acceptable.
Credit the track record of needle exchanges in reducing rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. That helps explain why the Florida Medical Association threw its considerable weight behind the pilot program, and why a Republican-led Congress has lifted the ban on using federal money for such exchanges.
Florida’s program is, however, just a pilot. And the University of Miami won’t be able to use state or local tax dollars to get it up and running and keep it going.
But in a written statement, Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, expressed optimism: “Hopefully this pilot syringe program is just the beginning of major changes in Florida,” he wrote.
“We should recognize as a community that we cannot derive profit off the punishment and rehabilitation of kids,” said Gordon Weekes, the Broward County chief assistant public defender who for years has locked horns with YSI over the treatment of kids in its care.
“This should never have been a profit center.”
Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice long ago began putting the care and treatment
of juveniles bound for residential, treatment or detention facilities into the hands of private companies.
YSI was among the first to ink contracts and among the first to start chalking up troubling reports dating to its mid-1990s management of a Pahokee lockup: not enough staffers, not enough food and too much violence.
Last week, DJJ announced it was severing the company’s seven contracts as part of a whistleblower suit settlement. The whistleblowers, all former YSI employees, had reported, among other things: not enough staffers, not enough food and too much violence. (YSI said that, even though the suit was without merit, it settled because it wanted to put the long-running litigation behind it. )
But, said Caroline Isaacs, Arizona director for the American Friends Service Committee, “This is not about a single bad actor or a few bad apples. It is inherent in the effort to make money and is driven by the concerns and needs of shareholders.”
“Oh, I never fault the companies on this stuff,” said Paul Wright. That’s a bit out of left field coming from Wright, a former prison inmate, the founder and Executive Director of the Human Rights Defense Center and editor of the award-winning Prison Legal News, which has for years has taken on prison privatization in all its manifestations.
But, said Wright, nobody should be surprised when a for-profit company finds ways to make profits.
“Let’s take them at their word they are in the business of making money,” he said. Cutting costs is part of the deal, he pointed out.
“It’s not their fault that government continues to shovel money at them.”
Weekes said YSI’s exit give DJJ an opportunity: a small, state-run facility that incorporates the best practices of juvenile detention. “Take the the profits we are paying to companies and get down to core element of what a child needs to get back on the right track,” he said. “Once we have best practices, we can replicate that.
“We can’t just keep throwing good money after bad at the YSIs of the world.”
For years, Youth Services International has fended off allegations of substandard care of the juvenile offenders it houses for Florida, and for years, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice has continued to award the Sarasota company lucrative contracts and defend its practices.
YSI is out as of August 31.
DJJ Secretary Christina Daly said in a written statement issued late Wednesday afternoon that the decision was set in motion by a former YSI employee who sued the company, alleging it faked documents key to its lucrative state contracts and failed to provide services to juveniles in its care.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office became involved, said Daly, and the resulting mediated settlement requires YSI to relinquish its contracts to run seven DJJ facilities — and reimburse the state for unspecified financial losses.
“While YSI believes there is no merit to this lawsuit, it made the decision to settle the case in an effort to put the four year litigation in the past and avoid the future cost and distraction of a continued legal defense,” said a company spokesman in a statement.
“To know that they are not going to be in the state anymore is absolutely marvelous,” said Palm Beach County commissioner Shelley Vana. Vana’s high-profile criticism of how YSI ran the troubled Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility focused Tallahassee’s attention on the firm.
And this from Broward County public defender Gordon Weekes, who represents youthful offenders and has a laundry list of issues with the firm: “It’s about time.”
Last August, YSI opted out of its multimillion-dollar state contract to
run the Palm Beach center for teenage boys after a surprise inspection by Vana found several teenagers with shoes that were falling apart. Some toilets weren’t working. Teens said they were hungry.
Further, in the previous eight months before her visit, two staffers were charged with child neglect after arranging a brutal fight between teenagers. One of the teens sustained a “possible fractured eye socket and a fractured nose,” according to investigators.
DJJ requested an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Even so, the agency largely defended its long-time contractor.
Yet the company has found itself under fire since 1997, when DJJ awarded Correctional Services Corp. — which later became YSI — its very first contract, to run the 350-bed Pahokee Youth Development Center in rural Palm Beach County.
Just months later, Dade County Circuit Judge Thomas Petersen reported “physical and psychological conditions (that) bordered upon child abuse” at the facility.
The company flatly denied Petersen’s findings. Months before the $30 million contract was set to expire, however, and one week before a slated Palm Beach County court hearing on conditions at the center, the company dropped the Pahokee contract.
It was, said state officials, a mutual decision. But not long after that, YSI picked up more state contracts to house and treat juveniles for the state, including the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility deal, and has been racking up contracts ever since.
In June 2013, just as the Dept. of Justice published its findings that the rate of youth-reported sex abuse at the Palm Beach facility was triple 2012’s statewide average, Florida signed off on contracts with YSI valued at $17.7 million. In October of that year, when Pembroke Pines police were investigating two YSI staff members accused of assaulting teens in their care, Florida and YSI inked an $11.7 million contract. And the company got a $29 million contract even as it was fending off a suit alleging civil rights violations at Thompson Academy in Broward County.
YSI will be out of the business of caring for Florida juvenile offenders as of August 31, said Daly, when new operators are expected to be phased in. Just who that will be isn’t yet known.
A former Riviera Beach police commander and radio host is announcing today that he’s joining the race to become sheriff.
Rick Sessa said he’s filing paperwork on Monday, but said he’s announcing the news on his radio show “The Beat: Real Cop Talk” on 900 AM at 4 p.m. today.
“I feel an obligation to run. I can’t sit back and let this sheriff go unopposed for another four years,” Sessa said. “I grew up here, I policed here, and we need to do something.”
For years, Sessa has been critical of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who is seeking his fourth term. He’s been outspoken about the number of shootings by sheriff’s deputies and blames the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for ending a previous incarnation of his radio program by pressuring the show’s sponsors. His show resumed last year after nearly two years off the air.
If elected, “We’re going to reopen some of these shooting cases, and if we find misconduct or coverup or malicious attempts at prosecution, people will be held accountable,” Sessa said.
Sessa, who was with Riviera Beach police from 1986 to 2006, will join retired Riviera Beach police Maj. Alex Freeman and Samuel L. Thompson in challenging Bradshaw.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is investigating how the home addresses of thousands of officers, prosecutors, judges and others were released online over the weekend.
The addresses are redacted from the county Property Appraiser’s website at the request of police and prosecutors, but friends of a former sheriff’s deputy with a grudge against the agency obtained the information and posted it online.
It includes nearly 3,600 names and addresses of local and federal judges and prosecutors, FBI agents and officers from many local police departments. It also lists addresses of facilities that house victims of domestic violence.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the site or linking to it because of the sensitive nature of the records.
How the information ended up online is a mystery. Pat Poston, the property appraiser’s director of exemption services, which handles requests by police to redact their home addresses, said county information technology specialists said no one had hacked the property appraiser’s database.
“We’ve been contacted by the sheriff’s office,” Poston said. “They are beginning an investigation.”
A spokeswoman from PBSO hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
The site that posted the information is linked to former deputy Mark Dougan, a longtime thorn in the side of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his second-in-command, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, who has filed a civil suit against Dougan.
Dougan denied responsibility for the release. He said friends in Russia were responsible, but said he knew “a long time ago” that the hackers had the information.
Dougan said the release was retribution against the sheriff’s office, which he claimed had hacked into his personal Facebook and email accounts without a warrant.
“It sucks, but if the government doesn’t want their privacy breached, then they can’t go around breaching the privacy of citizens without a warrant,” he said. “Yes, 4,000 people were not involved in hacking my stuff, but those 4,000 people didn’t do anything to stop it.”
Although state law allows many types of public employees to request their home addresses be redacted from property appraiser websites, many don’t. Those who were not redacted are not exposed on the new posting. The 3,600 all had taken advantage of the state law to keep people from knowing where they live.
The Seth Adams family lawsuit against the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will be allowed to go to trial, a federal judge ruled today.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley denied Sgt. Michael Custer’s motion to toss the suit, but threw out some of the family’s more minor claims.
Overall, the decision was a victory for Adams’ family, who filed the suit after Adams, 24, was shot and killed by an undercover deputy in 2012. Adams was unarmed and on his own property, a nursery in Loxahatchee Groves.
Custer claimed that Adams fought him and grabbed him around the neck, prompting the deputy to shoot and kill Adams.
The incident is one of the most controversial shootings in the department’s history.
Why? Because the lotteries will make more money. Larger jackpots generate more attention, both from the media and the public, which generates more sales.
Lotteries who participate in Powerball downplay this by saying that your odds of winning something besides the largest jackpot are better. In a glowing Florida Lottery press release from October, when the changes were made, the lottery couldn’t even bring itself to call the odds “worse.” Instead, it said the odds were “extended.”
Meanwhile, the odds of winning the top jackpot went from 1 in 175,223,510 to 1 in 292,201,338.
To be fair, though, the previous odds were so remote that playing it was still a fool’s errand.
Overall, the move is a gimmick by lotteries that have experienced slowing sales, Aaron Abrams, an associate math professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, told NorthJersey.com in July.
“It’s certainly a short-term fix, and you can see they’ve changed the rules over and over and over again. They come up with gimmicks,” Abrams said. “Lotteries are in business and they’re in business to make money, and this is marketing. They change the game in an attempt to get attention and spur sales, generate interest and get people excited about the lottery.”
So how did the Multi-State Lottery Association, which manages Powerball, make the odds worse?
To win the Powerball jackpot, you have to correctly pick five numbers, plus a sixth “Powerball” number, generated from a ball machine.
Before, the first five numbers ranged from 1 to 59. Now, they range from 1 to 69. Meaning, the chances became worse.
The sixth “Powerball” number did get better, though. It used to range from 1 to 35. Now it’s between 1 and 26.
If you’re still inclined to play, though, you might take solace in this fact: Florida, which has hosted the Powerball drawings since it started selling the game in 2009, has had more winners than any other state.
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the 9th Annual National Candle Light Vigil – sponsored by West Palm Beach-based Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education (NOPE) Task Force – on Thursday to honor the estimated 30,000 people who die every year from drug overdoses in the U.S.
According to data gathered as part of the Post’s ongoing series on the substance abuse industry, more than 200 people have died of drug overdoses this year in Palm Beach County.
Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will give the keynote address via video to discuss the importance of drug prevention and education. Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney, will speak about local efforts to fight drug abuse.
At the vigils in more than 55 cities in the U.S. participants will light candles, bow their heads in a moment of silence, and view a memorial wall with more than 300 photos, which represent some of the 100 people who die every day of drug overdoses.
The vigil begins at 7 pm at the Gosman Amphitheatre at the Kravis Center, located at 701 Okeechobee Blvd.
Records of Corey Jones’ last calls prove a Palm Beach Gardens police officer was “likely the aggressor” in an encounter where the officer shot and killed him last week, his family’s attorneys said Tuesday.
The last call, at 3:10 a.m., was 53 minutes, which indicates the line was still open when Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja said he was forced to shoot Jones because Jones charged at him with a gun.
Jones family attorney Skinner Louis says the records belie Raja’s account, and that Jones was laid-back, calm, and refused an offer from his brother, C.J., to pick him up from the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard just before he was killed.
“He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated. He just thought maybe he was calling the wrong number,” Louis said of Jones’ long wait to speak to someone from roadside assistance. “So his brother sent him another number to call.”
Louis says he and Jones’ family members believe that Jones, who was left-handed, likely had his phone to his ear when Raja parked an unmarked police van perpendicular to his car and got out.
Jones had purchased a gun three days earlier and had a license to carry it, Louis said, but he said Jones never fired it.
“At the time Raja parked… (Corey) probably put his phone down and reached for the gun with his left hand,” Louis said.
Louis was a high school friend of Jones’ and is now part of the family’s legal team, which includes famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. Louis said on Tuesday that the attorneys’ focus on Tuesday was to get answers from AT&T.
AT&T officials on Monday confirmed to The Post that they are cooperating with law enforcement on the case but declined to comment further.
The family attorneys also expected Tuesday to speak with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. They initially met with him last week, and prosecutors provided the family with details of the shooting. Based on that conversation, they believe Raja wasn’t using his department-issued weapon when he shot Jones.
Louis says the most important parts of the investigation at this point remains the sequence of shots Raja fired and where he was standing when he fired them.
Jones, he said, was struck by three bullets – including one that shattered his left elbow and fractured his arm.
“That would have separated him from his gun if he had it in his hand,” Louis said.
Prosecutors told the family last week that the gun was found in the grass between Jones’ body and his car, an 80- to 100-foot distance.