BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — President Barack Obama is expected to a sign a bill into law that aims to help curb the nation’s heroin crisis. Manatee officials hope that law could help the county battle its own heroin problems.
Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and the measure has now been sent to President Obama. If signed, the bill would authorize $181 million in federal funding to support programs to curb the abuse of heroin and other drugs.
The epidemic has swept the nation, with more than 47,000 U.S. drug abuse fatalities in 2014. This is double the death rate from 2000. Most of those deaths were from heroin or opioids, potentially addictive painkillers.
It’s been a dangerous problem in Manatee County. In 2015 the county ranked first in Florida for heroin deaths and overdoses. Officials have been working hard to stop this trend. However, this summer, they’ve seen a spike in heroin overdoses.
“There’ve been instances where we’ve gone to the same house three times in a day for an overdose,” Manatee County EMS Acting Chief Paul DiCicco said. “It does strain our staff a bit to see this kind of stuff on a daily basis.”
Officials say the CARA bill will expand access to Naloxone. It’s an over-the-counter antidote to help prevent a drug addict from overdosing. At $44 per dose, officials need more of it.
“We spend over $50,000 on (Naloxone) alone; very expensive,” DiCicco said.
The CARA funding will also increase drug treatment programs and lead to expanded public education campaigns. The measure would create systematic guidance for treating opioid addiction among veterans. In addition, it would ensure newborns born to opioid-addicted mothers can receive the most effective treatments.
“It’s amazing because it sets kind of a national standard of how to address this epidemic at all different facets. It’s nice to have some standards in place for maybe new coalitions that are starting out or other organizations that don’t know where to start,” Merab Favorite with Drug Free Manatee said.
Drug Free Manatee officials are optimistic this funding will help save lives and curb the opioid crisis.
The Obama administration had hoped the bill would include more funding. Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the president will sign the bill – reluctantly. The president thinks some action is better than none, Earnest said. Obama will continue fighting to secure the resources he believes are necessary to fight this crisis, the press secretary added.