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Casey DeSantis was a champion of Volunteer Florida, helping get $496,000 to help nonprofits recruit and retain skill-based volunteers.


Federal funds, new coordinator to help Florida in ‘war against opioids’

New resources for a familiar problem.

First Lady Casey DeSantis and a variety of state and local leaders were in Jacksonville Monday to discuss the opioid crisis and to herald new mechanisms for response.

DeSantis and others at the event called attention to a $58 million Centers for Disease Control grant that will drop over the next three years.

Of that money, $7.6 million will go to the Department of Health, and $12 million will be distributed to localities where the crisis is most grave.

DeSantis noted that pregnant women and unborn babies are particularly affected, with nearly 6,000 babies born in recent years with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Duval County is the epicenter for this issue in the state, with babies in Jacksonville eight times more likely to be born addicted than babies in Miami-Dade.

DeSantis announced a new position: a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Statewide Prevention Coordinator, a position in the Department of Health, which should help to quell a problem all too persistent.

The First Lady also spotlighted money committed to the problem on the state and federal level, as well as the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, discussing the “war against opioids,” extolled the “impactful” DeSantis for galvanizing awareness.

Rivkees noted that “complicated problems require complicated solutions … and funding.”

Key to the state’s approach: “prevention, intervention, and surveillance,” Rivkees said.

“Working together with everybody here,” Rivkees said, “we will be able to make a difference.”

Department of Children and Families head Chad Poppell noted that “this isn’t one of those press conferences where we get to talk about a metric moving in the right direction.”

“Substance abuse,” Poppell said, “is a child welfare problem.”

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, frequently at odds with the Governor’s Office, was on board with this initiative, in a bipartisan spirit of collaboration.

“Drug addiction has no party,” Gibson said.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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