Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2016
Source: Tampa Bay Times (FL)
Copyright: 2016 St. Petersburg Times
Note: Named the St. Petersburg Times from 1884-2011.
Author: Vern Buchanan
Note: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican currently 
serving his fifth term, represents the 16th Congressional District, 
which spans parts of Southwest Florida, including Sarasota and 
Bradenton. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.
Page: A9


For millions of families, including those in our own Florida 
communities, a drug-fueled pattern of devastation and heartbreak has 
become a painful part of life. Too many of our loved ones are losing 
their struggle with heroin and other addictive substances. The facts 
are sobering. Thousands of Americans die each year from heroin, the 
most addictive drug on the planet. In Florida, heroin overdose deaths 
have increased 900 percent in recent years, rising from 48 in 2010 to 
447 in 2014.

Our heroin epidemic has become a public health and safety crisis. 
Spiking heroin use rates are being driven by a one-two punch of 
cheap, available heroin and prescription narcotic abuse, according to 
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's why I'm championing two major bills that would bring federal 
resources to bear in giving addicts a path out of addiction and 
helping law enforcement reduce the supply of illegal drugs.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (HR 953) and the Stop 
Abuse Act (HR 3719) would devote funding to a wide range of law 
enforcement, treatment and prevention strategies.

These bills represent a comprehensive approach to combating the 
heroin epidemic and include critical funding for state, local and 
nonprofit drug education efforts for teens and seniors; grants for 
treatment and prevention; and the creation of new veterans-specific 
drug treatment courts.

Disrupting the local and global heroin supply chain is a critical 
piece of any antidrug effort. The Stop Abuse Act helps take drugs off 
the street by authorizing federal grants to combat drugs in areas 
that are significant centers of illegal drug production, 
manufacturing, importation or distribution. According to the Office 
of National Drug Control Policy, 21 Florida counties, including 
Hillsborough, met this definition last year.

Combating addiction and substance abuse has long been one of my top 
priorities in Congress. I helped lead the fight against bogus 'pill 
mills' and spearheaded a successful effort that made it harder for 
abusers to obtain highly addictive narcotics. To gain ground on the 
addiction menace, we will all need to come to the table and work together.

Key members of our community, including Sarasota County Sheriff 
Thomas Knight and Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, support my 
approach - as do antidrug advocates such as Drug Free Manatee 
executive director Sharon Kramer and Mary Ruiz, CEO of behavioral 
health hospital Cornerstone.

Most of us know someone personally, whether it is a member of the 
family or a friend, who is struggling with substance abuse. And that 
means most of us have witnessed the devastating effects addiction has 
on a person's family and loved ones.

The fear, pain, despair, shame and frustration that so many of our 
neighbors feel because they are stuck in the spiral of addiction can 
be a crushing burden.

Combating addiction requires everyone in the community to play an 
active role. I'm working to ensure that Congress does its part to 
recognize the severity of the problem and devote meaningful resources 
to address it.
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