Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has been honored by the Florida Association of Counties for her efforts to help communities across the state deal with the opioid epidemic.
At a ceremony Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, McKinlay received the Marlene Young Presidential Advocacy Award, which is presented to a county elected official who has shown extraordinary leadership.
“Her commitment to opioid abuse saw success with additional federal and state funding as well as tougher penalties,’’ FAC President Kathy Bryant said as she presented the award to McKinlay.
On Thursday, Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order extending his public health emergency declaration on the opioid crisis for another 60 days. McKinlay had sent him a letter earlier this month requesting the extension.
McKinlay will be the keynote speaker Aug. 31 in Boca Raton at a rally to observe International Overdose Awareness Day. She will speak as a guest of Southeast Florida Recovery Advocates. The rally will be held at Florida Atlantic University from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The Marlene Young Presidential Advocacy Award is named after the late Marlene Young, who served as a County Commissioner in Polk County from 1988-2000. She was a founding member of the Florida Counties Foundation, and in 1993 she became President of FAC.
“We understand everyone has bumps in the roads and difficult times we want them to know that there are places you can go to for support,” Jeter told reporters last week at the dedication of the Derek Jeter Youth Addiction Treatment Center at The Phoenix House.
The facility outside Tampa was paid for in part by a $850,000 by the Turn 2 Foundation, established in 1996 by the Yankees captain and All-Star shortstop who retired in 2014 after 20 years in the game and whose No. 2 jersey was retired by the team earlier this year.
The foundation’s president is Jeter’s sister, Sharlee Jeter. Derek Jeter also made a $150,000 donation, raising the new center’s total to $1 million.
Palm Beach County commissioners could be asked again this year to add more positions to help the Medical Examiner’s Office keep pace with a rising caseload driven by the opioid epidemic.
A new associate medical examiner and a new technician will start July 3, roughly three months after county commissioners approved the addition of those two positions.
But the office recently lost a key position when one of its doctors left to take a job with the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office. That means the new doctor that starts on July 3 will essentially replace the doctor who left, keeping the Palm Beach County’s Medical Examiner’s Office at five doctors instead of six.
“It will be some time before the newly added position will help reduce the examiner workload,’’ deputy county administrator Jon Van Arnam said Thursday in an email to commissioners.
“The number of new cases continues to increase at an unprecedented rate, stressing staff and the system. If this trend continues, it could necessitate us returning to the (County Commission) for additional positions later this year or early next year.’’
To help reduce the possibility of losing more doctors, Van Arnam has suggested the county’s Medical Examiner, Dr. Michael Bell, conduct a salary and benefits survey.
“Pay and benefits are key factors in our ability to attract and retain qualified medical staff and investigators,’’ Van Arnam said in the email.
At the meeting in April about the opioid epidemic, county commissioners also approved a third position – an executive level drug czar – to oversee the county’s response to the drug crisis. That position could be filled later this year.
“This position is still being developed,’’ Van Arnam said.
“We are determining how to best (use) this position in coordination with key partners including the Health Care District, Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and PBSO. We understand the urgency of this situation and will keep you informed of our progress.’’
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane — whose team opened The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches earlier this year in West Palm Beach — got married over the Memorial Day weekend to Whitney Wheeler at his Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City.
The sunset wedding ceremony took place in front of more than 120 friends — all dressed in white — on a grass bluff overlooking the resort’s marina. The couple stood between two large floral swan sculptures.
Country music star Clay Walker performed. Guests included Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, NBA Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets legend Clude Drexler and Monterey County Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler.
Whitney Crane wore a custom-designed wedding gown by Carolina Herrera.
Scott’s decision came after the last of four state workshops on the opioid crisis this morning in Duval County. State officials held their first workshop Monday in West Palm Beach followed by two on Tuesday in Manatee and Orange counties.
Many people who attended the workshops called for him to declare a public health emergency.
“Finally,” said Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay, who made the first request for a public health emergency back in February.
“Today I feel relief. relief that the voices of so many were finally heard. For the pain of loss so many families have faced, to those struggling to overcome addition,” she said.
“I am hopeful that the governor’s direction to declare a public health crisis in response to the opioid epidemic will open the door to a truly meaningful plan to fight this disease.”
McKinlay’s request, which triggered other leaders to send similar requests, came after The Palm Beach Post published a special section examining the crisis. That section, Heroin: Killer of a generation, was published days after the daughter of McKinlay’s chief aide died of a drug overdose.
“This emergency declaration is important to combat the epidemic in our communities,” said Jupiter Vice Mayor Ilan Kaufer, who helped spearhead a declaration request by the Palm Beach County League of Cities in March.
“I am thankful to all the local leaders and community members who supported efforts to let the Governor know how important this step was in saving lives.”
Check back later for updates on this developing story.
Here is a press release issued minutes ago by Scott’s office:
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declaring a national opioid epidemic, Governor Rick Scott signed Executive Order 17-146 directing a Public Health Emergency across the state. By signing the Emergency Order, it will allow the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Opioid State Targeted Response Grant which was awarded to Florida on April 21 to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services. Without the order, it would have taken months for the state to distribute these funds to local communities. In addition to declaring a Public Health Emergency, Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip will issue a standing order for Naloxen, an emergency treatment for opioid overdose. This will ensure first responders have immediate access to this lifesaving drug to respond to opioid overdoses.
Governor Scott said, “Today, I issued an executive order which allows the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding which will immediately be distributed to communities across the state to deal with the opioid epidemic. HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price awarded the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant to Florida and I want to thank the Trump Administration for their focus on this national epidemic. I have also directed State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare a Public Health Emergency and issue a standing order for Naloxone in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida.
“Last month, I directed the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to meet with communities in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange Counties to identify additional strategies to fight the rising opioidusage cases in Florida. They have gotten a lot of feedback this week and we will continue to look at additional ways we can fight this national epidemic which has taken the lives of many Floridians.
“I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up. The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help. Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “This declaration will help strengthen our continued efforts to combat the national opioid epidemic claiming lives in Florida by providing additional funding to secure prevention, treatment and recovery support services. I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his continued partnership in combating drug abuse in our state; from shutting down pill mills to outlawing deadly synthetic drugs, Governor Scott has long supported efforts by my office and law enforcement to raise awareness, stop drug abuse and save lives.”
The newspaper’s front page that day included the faces off all 216 people who died of an accidental opioid-related overdose in Palm Beach County in 2015.
“State of Emergency” — which will be performed around 6 p.m. Sunday during the KeroWacked Festival in the Boynton Beach Art District — is set to a poem entitled, “And I Listened” by Shannon Willis.
Scattered among the verses is a reading of names of lives lost to addiction and overdose.
Local actor and recovery advocate Gary Kimble will be performing the verse, while James Fata, local recovery advocate and chapter lead for Young People In Recovery lists the names of those we have lost.
Gosselin, co-Founder of See Change Dance will dance in remembrance. Community members are invited to participate and hold banners inscribed with a name and a memory of someone they’ve lost to substance use disorder and/or accidental overdose.
The intent, Gosselin said, is to humanize an epidemic that killed nearly 600 people in Palm Beach County last year as well as thousands across the United States.
“These are people, not statistics,’’ she said. “Their lives matter. The performance is a call to compassionate action toward stopping this modern day plague.’’
The festival starts at noon and ends at 10 p.m., said organizer Rolando Chang Barrero.
It will be held from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the West Palm Beach Police headquarters, 600 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach.
Two counties will have workshops on May 2 — Manatee and Orange counties. Duval County’s workshop will be May 3.
The workshops, announced Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, will be hosted by DCF, the state Department of Health and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Similar to many communities across the nation, Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval, and Orange counties are facing an increase in opioid-related deaths,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in an email sent to local officials.
“DCF, DOH, and FDLE will host community workshops with local leaders, law enforcement, health directors, treatment providers and community members.
“Community workshops will provide important opportunities for DCF, DOH and FDLE to directly hear the specific needs of affected communities as well as provide information on existing resources, best parctices and grant opportunities.”
Sen. Marco Rubio met in West Palm Beach today with local leaders to discuss “the devastation caused by opioid addiction in our communities.’’
The private meeting, held in State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office with members of the Palm Beach County’s heroin and sober homes task forces, covered the rise in opioid deaths, addiction treatment needs and sober home issues.
“It’s important that we continue working together with state and local officials to identify and root out fraud and hold bad providers accountable, so that the people who seek help aren’t being taken advantage of,’’ Rubio said in a statement.
“And we must do more to stop the flow of fentanyl and carfentanil across our borders, which is what the bipartisan legislation I’ve introduced with my colleagues in the Senate would address.’’
Attendees included Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath; Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department; Palm Beach County commissioner Melissa McKinlay; Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park; and West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio.
“This epidemic requires all hands on deck and I appreciate Senator Rubio’s commitment to partner with our Task Force and local leaders on this effort,’’ Aronberg said in a statement.
Rubio is co-sponsoring federal grants, through the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, to help local governments and certain nonprofits in Florida intervene with people suffering from substance abuse. The grant deadline is April 25.
McKinlay, who has helped lead the fight for local help with the crisis, said Rubio told attendees he would try to get federal money for pilot programs to ease the opioid crisis.
He also said he would talk to the Department of Justice about more help for local communities seeking to enact local laws aimed at protecting neighborhoods from rogue sober homes.
“I was very inspired about how educated he was on the issues,’’ McKinlay said.