TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Attorney General Ashley Moody on Friday morning led the first meeting of the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse's first meeting, which was held in the Florida Capitol.
The panel is tasked with making legislative recommendations to help stem a crisis that is killing 17 Floridians every day.
It's an epidemic that touches almost every corner of society. That's why the task force includes law enforcement, addiction experts and mental health professionals.
"This is not a situation of trying to make bad people good, but rather sick people well," said Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, who is co-chair of the task force.
In its first meeting, three committees were designated: prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
"We were always playing defense. This demonstrates that now we're ready to play offense," said former state Rep. Jim Boyd, who is a member of the task force.
The law enforcement component will likely be aimed at traffickers, according to members.
But Lemma said that, for those who are addicted, the focus will be on treatment.
"We feel that crime and delinquency are symptoms of other problems," Lemma said.
Moody, who is chair of the task force, said any recommendations will be based on proven methods and data.
"We've already been looking at what's working and what's not across the state so that we can overlay those with death rates and seeing where are death rates going down and what practices are being used," Moody said.
While opioids are the main focus of the task force, some members expressed a desire to be more proactive in addressing other drugs gaining popularity, such as methamphetamine.
Miami Judge Steve Leifman, who is a member of the task force, believes the task force's work might help stop the next drug crisis before it happens.
"Just chasing a particular drug is not necessarily going to do it, but it is a great start for us, by focusing on the opioids, to then look at the other issues," Leifman said.
The task force will need to work fast if it hopes to have recommendations in place by the start of the next legislative session in January.
The task force will be meeting once a month going forward.
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