Florida lawmakers put opioid crisis back in spotlight

Effort this year seeks to tackle supply of medical opioids

By Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - At the start of session in January, responding to the state's opioid crisis was on the top of lawmakers' list of priorities, but in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some lawmakers are putting the spotlight back on the issue to ensure legislation passes.

The shooting in Parkland tragically claimed 17 lives, and responding to the issue has taken up most of legislators' focus for the past few weeks.

But lawmakers want to make sure response to the opioid crisis, which kills 16 Floridians each day, doesn't fall by the wayside.

"The same number of people that died in Parkland have died since Parkland and every day before that," Sen. Darryl Rouson said.

The subject came up multiple times while senators debated legislation on school safety Monday.

"Parents come in with their 2- and 3-year-old children, lay them on the stretcher while they're seeking drugs," Sen. Denise Grimsley said.

The effort this year seeks to tackle the supply of medical opioids. Proposed legislation would limit doctors to prescribing just a three-day supply in most cases, with the option of a seven-day supply if it’s deemed necessary.

Some in the medical profession said the restrictions included in the bill are too tight.

"Exceptions for cancer treatment, hospice care, surgery and trauma cases should be adopted," said Jeff Scott with the Florida Medical Association.

But other provisions in the bill, such as requiring patients to enter into the Prescription Drug Registry to prevent doctor shopping and requiring ongoing training for doctors to prescribe the medications, have strong support.

"Somebody from north Florida can't just go over to Georgia and get their medications. So we think that's beneficial," said Mark Fontaine, president of the Florida Behavioral Mental Health Association.

The Senate bill sets aside more than $53 million for opioid response, but until the budget is finalized, that number isn't guaranteed.

The bill was temporarily postponed Tuesday morning in the Senate, leaving only three more days for its passage.

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