Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Robert McClure: Support the Tax Credit Scholarship to protect Florida’s families

Science, psychology, and innovative research have proven that children possess different learning abilities, skills and interests. To make the most of these unique ways of learning, students need educational options that meet their particular scholastic needs and broaden their interest in education.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, administered by Step Up for Students, provides families with the power to choose a school offering the most appropriate learning program for their children. Currently, more than 100,000 students, from families making $24,000 a year on average, are empowered to attend a school that better fits their needs. Over 70 percent of these students are minorities, and they are the students struggling in public schools when they leave with the scholarship. Because of this program, families are lifted from the cycle of poverty and provided a vital escape hatch from schools that were not a good fit for them.

Objective research has shown that this program helps children on scholarships, children who remain in public schools, and taxpayers. Just a few weeks ago an objective analysis from The Urban Institute found that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program significantly improves the likelihood that students enroll in college. If a student spends at least four years in the program, they have a 40 percent greater chance of going to college.

Despite these benefits, it is dismaying to see an article such as the one that appeared today in the Orlando Sentinel. The paper cherry-picked stories of bad actors at a few schools (out of 1,700 across the state that serve these children) and made little mention of the very credible study by The Urban Institute. Moreover, the article lacked context and reflects an all-too-familiar bias against parental choice.

It is a shame that in the face of a successful program such as Step Up, in a society which prides itself on a commitment to innovation, objective results and scientific advancement, that we must continue to oppose a status quo that would rather protect adults who run the system rather than students who are stuck in the system. These tactics are the last gaps of an establishment on the wrong side of history.

Our state must be committed to seeing that every student has a path to success, and that none are denied a quality learning opportunity by anti-choice forces, simply because of the ZIP code in which they reside. A one-size-fits-all system of education is not the most effective way to provide students with exceptional learning opportunities. We support all forms of schooling that provide a strong education. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and Step Up for Students are unique in the opportunities they provide families, and we applaud their mission of helping every child find success as they pursue their education and, ultimately their passion in life.

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Robert McClure, Ph.D., is president and CEO of The James Madison Institute, a statewide think tank based in Tallahassee, devoted to research and education on public policy issues.

Joe Henderson: U.S. Virgin Islands still needs our help

The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered almost unprecedented damage during Hurricane Irma and the recovery has been painstakingly slow.

I mention this because while Floridians have rightly focused great political and civic attention on hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, we can’t forget about the devastation that remains a mere 18-minute plane ride from San Juan on JetBlue. I know this because that’s how long it took me and my family to fly there for my oldest son’s wedding in July.

That was about six weeks before St. Thomas and next-door neighbor St. John were flattened by Irma. The Washington Post reported what was left behind was “perhaps the site of Irma’s worst devastation on American soil.”

The storm hit the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane with 185 mile-per-hour winds on Sept. 7 before moving onto Florida. With so much damage here, it was hard for Floridians to focus on what was happening to our friends and fellow U.S. citizens in the Caribbean, and then life goes on and human nature is to forget and get back into a normal routine.

Hurricane Maria gave the islands another gut punch before unleashing its fury on Puerto Rico. Because the damage in Puerto Rico was so widespread for that island, the misery to its next-door neighbor was crowded out of the conversation, especially when President Trump’s feud with San Juan’s mayor stole the headlines for days.

There is a web site called News of St. John that has managed to send out regular “hey, remember us” messages. Monday, it said, was the island’s 41st day of a 100 percent power outage.

There is a video on the site of the devastation at beautiful Trunk Bay. Places where we ate and visited while there have been knocked to their knees.

Country singer Kenny Chesney has done remarkable work in trying to help there. He has a home on the island and during Irma he opened it for 17 people to ride out the storm. The home was destroyed, but everyone survived.

He immediately organized mercy flights with generators, cleanup gear, and equipment to help get people back on the internet. He deserves a medal for this, but he and his team of angels need much more help.

St. John is a place of incredible beauty, but geography is also its enemy. It’s not easy to get to, which I think contributed to a relative lack of coverage about the situation. It’s only about 4 miles long and most of the aid it receives has to come by boat. The narrow roads and mountainous terrain make relief efforts even more difficult.

We went nuts here in Florida when the power was out for a few days for most people after Irma. Imagine what the people in St. John and St. Thomas are going through.

These are our friends.

These are our neighbors.

These are Americans and we can’t let the noise drown them out.

Carol Dover: Protect Florida tourists, neighborhoods by stopping illegal hotel operators

As the voice of Florida’s hospitality industry, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has long championed a uniform, statewide system of compliance for all commercial lodging establishments.

As they compete for tourism business, all FRLA lodging members must register with the State, collect taxes, and protect Florida consumers through adequate insurance — rules that prevent substandard operators from exposing travelers and residents to senseless risk and gaining unfair advantages in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, the same does not necessarily ring true for short-term rentals here in the Sunshine State.

Recently, the Senate Community Affairs Committee convened a public hearing in Tallahassee to solicit feedback on the current state of short-term rentals and their impact on our communities.

During these discussions, it was illuminated that — while Florida has long welcomed vacation rentals into the mix of accommodations options for tourists — there exists a divergent, growing problem of bad actors exploiting online platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway to operate what amount to illegal hotels across the State.

Far from the concept of “home sharing,” where homeowners welcome a guest into their residence on an occasional basis, this new phenomenon involves commercial operators acquiring and listing multiple units in the same residential neighborhood and/or listing these units in a “revolving door” fashion.

In other words, these real estate speculators are operating de facto hotels without adhering to the common-sense regulations and tax obligations every other hotel or inn in the State must follow. As a practical matter, this means that when a short-term rental goes awry — by becoming a year-round party house in a sleepy residential neighborhood, or the site of a bedbug outbreak — impacted consumers and neighbors have little recourse, and the unscrupulous landlord can continue to operate their short-term rentals unchecked.

Our lawmakers must take this new and growing trend seriously, as they will ultimately make the tough decisions on how to respect the property rights of homeowners while reining in those commercial operators operating outside of current law.

We thank legislators for starting this meaningful discussion so that well-informed solutions can be debated in the forthcoming legislative session.

Visitors are coming to Florida in record numbers, with or without short-term rentals, and it is our duty to ensure tourists have a safe and enjoyable experience while protecting the Florida brand.

Florida’s hospitality industry brings in $108.8 billion and represents 1.4 million jobs — making tourism the Sunshine State’s top industry. No single commercial lodging establishment type or operator can claim 100 percent credit for being the driving force for this level of economic impact—it is a collective effort among all businesses within the hospitality industry.

But, we can and must take a peek under the hood to make sure all parts of the lodging sector are functioning in a manner that will serve to forwardly propel Florida’s brand as a destination, while ridding the system of bad actors impacting tourists and residents alike.

This can be done in such a way that permits true, reasonable home sharing while irrefutably subjecting commercial operators and their short-term rentals to the same commonsense rules other public lodging establishments must abide by.

The time has come to address the rise of illegal hotels in our neighborhoods, operating without regard for Florida’s “public accommodations” laws. Our vacationers and our families deserve nothing less.

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Carol Dover is president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Aubrey Shines: Florida’s minority businesses need tax cuts most

As Congress prepares to cut taxes, our nation’s job creators have high hopes for the economy.

The Republican tax plan cuts the federal small business tax rate from nearly 40 percent to a much fairer 25 percent. Under the current tax code, the overwhelming majority of small businesses (95 percent) are considered “pass-through” entities, which means their owners are taxed at the highest individual marginal tax rate. The federal pass-through tax rate stands at 39.6 percent, while state and local taxes often bring the small business tax burden to 50 percent.

This is not only unacceptable, but destructive to job creation, business expansion and America’s economic activity. The U.S. tax system hasn’t been changed since the 1980s, when Democrats and Republicans banded together for the common good. Pro-growth tax relief is long overdue, and Washington, D.C. has no excuse not to get the job done.

Just imagine the economic impact of tax cuts. I’m a pastor in the great state of Florida, where there are 2.3 million small businesses, employing over 3 million workers — roughly half of Florida’s workforce. In my state, small business accounts for more than 95 percent of all exports. Nationwide, there are nearly 30 million small businesses, employing about 60 million workers. And small business generates over $470 billion in exports every year.

As the founder of G2G Ministries, Inc. just outside Tampa, I know the tremendous value of small businesses. When they succeed, America succeeds. Lower taxes would leave small-business owners with more of their hard-earned money, allowing them to reinvest in their businesses and local communities. They could hire new employees, raise wages and lift millions of people up the career ladder.

This is especially true for America’s minority entrepreneurs and the people they serve. In Florida, there are nearly 930,000 minority-owned businesses, which make up almost half of the state’s small businesses.

Nationwide, their impact is even more profound. According to the most recent data, America is home to 8 million minority-owned businesses. And minority business ownership is on the rise: From 2007 to 2012, minorities increased their share of overall business ownership from 22 percent to nearly 30 percent — an inspiring increase. All in all, minority business owners contribute more than $1 trillion in revenue and 7.2 million jobs.

Our government needs to reward these life-changing entrepreneurs with a tax code that helps them help others, rather than impeding them at every turn. For too long, our nation’s most devoted job creators have been overburdened by the heavy hand of Big Government. When that burden is removed, small-business owners — minorities and others — will guide us to economic prosperity more passionately than ever before. This prosperity will stretch from our inner cities to our farmland and beyond.

It’s time to try something new. Since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has only averaged a few percentage points of growth. Jobs are not being created as often they could be.

This is a matter of right or wrong. When job creators struggle, their employees struggle. Will Uncle Sam keep erecting barriers on the road to professional development? Will Uncle Sam continue blocking Americans as they climb the career ladder? Or will our government — of, by and for the people — help them climb to unprecedented heights?

My state is a shining example of good government. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a $180 million tax cut package to help small businesses grow. The new law cut taxes charged on business rent, saving our state’s small businesses more than $60 million a year. Job creation and business expansion will surely follow.

And now it’s time for the federal government to follow suit. Cut taxes. Help small businesses.

Congress, our economy is in your hands. Do the right thing for your constituents.

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Pastor Aubrey Shines is the founder of G2G Ministries, Inc. in Florida.

Frank Shepherd: Marsy’s Law brings equity to victims’ and criminals’ rights

Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) currently has before it a proposal called Marsy’s Law for Florida, which seeks to provide victims of crime and their families with constitutional protections equal to those afforded to the accused and convicted.

As a former judge, I support this measure.

Our justice system is one of the best there is, but admittedly, it is an imperfect one. During my years on the bench, I saw both the good and bad sides of the system. I have seen the imperfections firsthand. One of the most disheartening is the way in which victims are left with no clear, enforceable rights to protect them.

Marsy’s Law for Florida would bring equity to victims’ and criminals’ rights. Neither the victim nor the accused or convicted would have more or less rights than the other. If placed on the 2018 General Election ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission and passed by the voters, Marsy’s Law would ensure Florida victims and their families have certain rights and protections that are clearly spelled out in our state’s most powerful legal document.

In my mind, one of the most important protections Marsy’s Law would provide victims is the right to choose whether they will consent to a deposition by the defendant’s criminal defense attorney. Right now, defendants are entitled to extensive discovery rights by rule. They can receive and review all police reports, all witness statements including the victim’s, all exhibits, all expert reports and they are permitted to take sworn deposition testimony of anyone on the state’s witness list, which typically includes the victim.

Unfortunately, taking a victim’s deposition, or in some cases, multiple depositions, has become an intimidation and harassment tactic. Frequently, a State Attorney will make a plea offer with a reduced punishment if the defendant will agree not to take the deposition of the victim in order to shield the victim from additional trauma. Justice is not fully served in an effort to protect the victim.

Under Marsy’s Law for Florida, defendants would continue to have extensive discovery rights. They would still receive all police reports, all statements including the victim’s, all exhibits, all expert reports and the same deposition rights except the right to take the victim’s deposition. Victims would be able to choose to agree to a deposition and would make that decision in consultation with the State Attorney, but it would their choice and not a legal requirement.

Providing victims with a choice on defendant depositions would also bring Florida in line with the federal government and nearly every other state in the union. The federal government does not allow victim depositions. Florida is one of only five states that permit criminal defense discovery depositions. In Florida, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont, the defense has the right to take discovery depositions from the victim. In Texas, the defense may take depositions, but they first must seek court approval.

We need a more enlightened approach to victim depositions and victims’ rights in general. Marsy’s Law for Florida is the path toward that enlightenment.

I commend Constitution Revision Commissioners Sheriff Chris Nocco, Patricia Levesque, Carolyn Timmann, Sherry Plymale, Darlene Jordan, Brecht Heuchan, John Stemberger and Tim Cerio for their sponsorship of the Marsy’s Law for Florida proposal.

I earnestly hope other CRC commissioners will join them in their support of this important measure.

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Frank Shepherd is a retired judge who served on the Florida Third District Court of Appeal until January 2017.

 

Joe Henderson: Richard Spencer at UF is emergency all right

Richard Spencer is clean cut, casual but professional, a disarming look for one of the most prominent faces in what is becoming a crowded field of racism in the United States.

His scheduled appearance Thursday afternoon the University of Florida prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, in case things get out of hand. That tends to happen when Spencer is involved.

He was a leader at the Charlottesville, Va. white supremacist rally that ended with a nationally televised riot where there was one death and multiple injuries.

Spencer admits he chooses a dress shirt, coat and tie over a white hood and robe because he doesn’t want to scare people while talking about things like  “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans… based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”

Too late.

Noting that wardrobe ruse, Spencer was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a kind of professional racist in khakis.”

Racists can be smart, and Spencer certainly qualifies. He was educated at the University of Virginia and was in a Ph.D. program at Duke before dropping out to lead the American Policy Institute, described as a think tank for the alt-right.

In a column for API in 2014, Spencer dismissed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “a fraud and degenerate in his life, (who) has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!”

He told CNN that, despite multiple reports to the contrary, he never called for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” In the same interview though, he told the network, “We have experienced this mass migration of people (into the United States). Therefore they could go home, you can go home again. … They came here peacefully. They could leave peacefully.”

Well, he could leave too. Alas, UF president Kent Fuchs said he is lawfully required to allow Spencer to speak on campus. That doesn’t mean he has to like it. In his Twitter account, Fuchs urged students to “avoid the event.”

Spencer and those support his pathetic views represent a special challenge to the ideals of America. The right of free speech is central to who we are as a nation, even when it is as potentially destructive as Spencer’s.

He has turned the First Amendment into a kind of Trojan Horse, demanding – and lawfully receiving – a platform to spew hate-filled garbage that tears at the core of a nation he essentially is trying to destroy.

The Founders realized the danger making laws to prohibit free speech and counted on people being able to filter and reject nonsense like this. That ideal is under attack on an almost unprecedented basis for this country by President Trump and Steve Bannon, who, like Spencer, is a devotee of the alt-right movement.

Trump declared the media is the “enemy” of the American people.

Bannon went so far as to tell the New York Times, “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, if that means calling out racism and lies when we see it, sign me up for extended duty.

Spencer and those like him need to be heard by everyone, and then robustly shouted down with words and actions in every corner of this country. I believe millions more Americans than not are horrified by Spencer’s kind of overt racism and will realize they need to get in the game.

The bad guys are playing to win.

That’s the real emergency we face.

 

Blake Dowling: Beware KRAK, the latest tech threat

If you hear about a wireless situation affecting ALL Wi-Fi devices in the world. Take a deep breath, don’t do the panic dance or smash anything.

Windows users are most likely in the clear. But you need to be in the know.

If you are an Android or Mac user, stay tuned for more info.

This latest threat is called KRAK (if you Google it, KRAK has nothing to do with apartments in Krakow; although some look very hip).

This notice is from the Feds:

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued the following warning in response to the exploit:

US-CERT has become aware of several key management vulnerabilities in the 4-way handshake of the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) security protocol. The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection and others. Note that as protocol-level issues, most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected. The CERT/CC and the reporting researcher KU Leuven will be publicly disclosing these vulnerabilities on 16 October 2017.

Details here: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity.

If you have someone managing your tech, and they are current with updates, or you have auto updates, the Windows patch on October 10 should have made this issue a non-issue.

If you are running an out-of-date operating system, check with your information technology professional for the appropriate patches, etc.

If you do not have the auto update features turned on, now is a good time. The good news, possible perps must be in proximity of you (and your device) to attempt to defraud you. So, this is not a look-out-for-problems-overseas-type threat.

The good news, possible perps must be in proximity of you (and your device) to attempt to defraud you. So, this is not a look-out-for-problems-overseas-type threat.

A good rule of thumb is to stay off free Wi-Fi, non-password protected networks, not just during this threat but always. We send way too much sensitive data back and forth; this is just another vulnerability where someone (or several individuals) will try and criminalize computing.

Auto-updates on? Staying off public Wi-Fi?

You are now free to move about the cabin, so to speak.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Joe Henderson: Florida joins battle on opioid crisis

Give Gov. Rick Scott credit for making a real effort to address Florida’s opioid crisis.

Last month, he proposed spending $50 million to combat opioid abuse. Included was a plan to limit physicians in most cases from prescribing more than three days of powerful and addictive pain-killers like OxyContin and oxycodone to their patients. The latter idea has now been formalized in HB 21, a bill filed by state Rep Jim Boyd.

The bill ups the stakes in Florida’s battle against drug abuse and is a prudent step toward keeping a new user who is legitimately prescribed the medicine from becoming hooked on powerful narcotics. Together, the twin proposals of legislation coupled with treatment are more than a whack-a-mole approach.

That’s the good news. The real problem comes in making sure that even this doesn’t make a bad problem worse.

Addicts already have proven time again that when one door is bolted shut, they will relentlessly search for another source to feed their drug need. They aren’t deterred by the threat of jail, and decades of trying to choke off the supply of illegal drugs on the street hasn’t worked.

That’s the awful reality lawmakers face as they try to fight a crisis that so far has been beyond their ability to adequately address with legislation. Someone with severe long-term pain will ignore the warnings and prohibitions. If they can’t get the prescribed drugs over the counter, they’ll start looking on the street.

There is a ready supply of black-market painkillers, and if that’s too much trouble many addicts turn to heroin. The legal narcotics are basically synthesized heroin in many cases, and street heroin is cheap and easy to find.

It also kills people.

Florida found that out when it shut down the so-called “pill mills” in 2010. The crackdown closed the storefront clinics that illegally dispensed opioids to basically anyone who walked through the door. By 2014, though, medical examiners reported that people were dying of heroin overdoses in record levels and problem continues today.

The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported there were 580 drug-related deaths last year in Broward County alone, including 10 on one day.

The addicted cross all social and economic lines, but they are united by a common theme: the addiction is more powerful than the penalty, even when that penalty is potential death by overdose. That’s where treatment comes in, and I think it likely that much more than the $50 million proposed by Scott will be needed.

I reported a series a few years ago for the Tampa Tribune about former National Football League players who used painkillers in sometimes staggering amounts to deal with long-term effects from their injuries.

One former player told me, “Am I an addict? Yes,” he said. “All my medications are pretty much illegal.”

Others talked of swallowing medication like Vicodin by the handfuls.

Of course, most people aren’t facing daily battles with overwhelming long-term pain from a career spent in athletic combat with 300-pound men, but all things are relative. People self-treat bad backs, sore shoulders, and wrenched necks. Before they know it, they have a problem that can’t be solved with legislation.

If Boyd’s proposal becomes law, which seems likely, Tallahassee will call it a victory. Maybe lawmakers will even do a little celebrating, which will be fine  – at least until the sun comes up and it’s time to face the next battle in a war that never seems to end.

Can Matt Gaetz get through big tax increase on NFL?

Progressives have an opportunity to get behind a bill that would end certain tax exemptions for a group they would normally refer to as “fat cats.”

One Member of Congress went on television this week promoting a bill that targets the corporate headquarters for wealthy business owners, saying it’s time for them to pay up.

“The current millionaires and billionaires associated with professional sports leagues, including the NFL, have a tax exemption,” the member said. “They don’t have to pay taxes. That’s special treatment that is not afforded to just regular folks (who I represent) or the small businesses on Main Street throughout America.”

That sounds like something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco might say, or ultra-progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; or Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In reality, it was said by conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.

Gaetz is now the lead sponsor of a bill originally filed in January by the now-retired Utah Republican, Jason Chaffetz. The PRO Sports Act would end a sports league’s 501(c)(6) tax exemption (as a non-profit) if they generate more than $10 million each year. He links the bill to the actions of NFL players “taking a knee” or sitting during the national anthem.

This is good politics for two reasons. For Gaetz and the conservative First Congressional District, it’s a slam dunk, or touchdown, if one prefers.

On the other hand, the left can, and will, make the free speech argument in siding with the protesters. But wouldn’t most of their constituents want the “tax breaks for the wealthy” to go away whether players stand or kneel?

Gaetz is rallying support. The quote above was uttered during an interview Monday night on Fox News.

On Tuesday, he wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, formally asking the committee to consider ending the exemptions. Protesters, he wrote, “have every right to do so, but they should do it on their own time and on their own dime.”

This week, Gaetz picked up his first two co-sponsors with Alabama Republican Mo Brooks and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold signing on. Is all of this getting the attention of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Lagging attendance and dropping television ratings certain are.

While polls do not show strong majorities for either side, people are voting with their feet. Attendance is lagging and television ratings are going down.

This week, Goodell wrote to all 32 NFL teams saying “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem.” While offering respect to the players, he also wrote: “We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

In the meantime, another weekend of games will take place before owners gather next week for their fall meetings. Thursday night’s Eagles vs. Panthers game in Charlotte saw no kneeling, just two Philadelphia players conducting symbolic gestures while standing.

If an understanding soon develops between players and owners, perhaps with locking arms replacing the kneeling, Gaetz’ bill may well wither on the vine. Even President Donald Trump gave the thumbs up for that gesture.

Goodell could only hope for such an occurrence. If controversy continues, look for more of Gaetz in the media and more co-sponsors for his bill.

It might actually get a hearing.

 

Melissa Larkin-Skinner: State resources are needed to address the opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic in Florida is wreaking havoc on individuals, families and communities. The negative consequences of this crisis can be seen across our state — in the health of our people, our schools, our businesses, our hospitals, our streets, our jails.

Our state legislature has an opportunity right now to enhance its response to this growing epidemic by increasing funding for prevention and treatment programs. This is an opportunity that we must take to ensure a healthy future for all of Florida for generations to come.

We see and hear about the ravages of opioid use nearly every day. In Manatee County alone, the county Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has experienced a 100 percent increase in the use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdose, every year for the past four years. Naloxone was administered by EMS 2,504 times in 2016, up from just 325 doses in 2013.

This increase comes with a hefty price tag. Additional usage of the drug has increased EMS costs from $14,000 in 2013 to $109,000 in 2016.

No one is immune from this crisis. Children in Manatee County were removed from their homes at twice the statewide rate over the past three years. The number of children under state supervision has doubled in Manatee, Sarasota and Desoto counties, increasing state costs for out of home care from $3.5 million to $7.2 million.

Parent deaths, which previously were no more than two per year, tragically, reached 17 this past year from opioid overdose and medical issues related to drug use.

Prevention and Treatment Needed to Address Addiction

Addiction is a disease, and a combination of prevention and treatment is needed to address it and combat the current epidemic.

Prevention through education will help us to halt the current crisis, keep it from extending to the younger population, and prevent future epidemics. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data have shown that evidenced-based prevention curricula offered in schools can save communities $18 for every dollar spent on programming. Physicians also need to be appropriately trained in non-opioid pain management options as well as how to screen and refer patients for whom they have prescribed opioids.

Treatment — in a range of forms — also is needed. With rising opioid use across our population, need and demand for treatment is unprecedented, and we need to ensure that Floridians have access to the care they need for recovery.

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, so health care providers must work with individuals to determine which treatments will be best for them and their unique lives, personalities and circumstances.

Many people benefit from inpatient detoxification to begin their road to recovery safely and need 24/7 care. Some people can detox safely on an outpatient basis with medication-assisted treatment, attending services daily before returning home overnight.

After detox, some individuals may need residential treatment, 24/7 care and time to relearn how to live a life without drugs, a life of recovery.

People who complete detox and residential treatment need outpatient care when they are discharged — ranging from daily services to weekly services including therapy, peer support, case management, and supportive and sober housing.

Each of these services are pieces of a puzzle for each person struggling with addiction and determined on an individual need. We cannot simply focus on one type of service or one part of the continuum and ignore the others.

The broader the treatment options we are able to provide, the better chance we have of helping people reach the goal of recovery.

We have an opportunity in front of us to set a national example for the proper response to opioid addiction, and we must take it. The Florida legislature should allocate funds to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. This will help individuals on their personal paths to recovery and put our state on the path to economic recovery from funds that are now being allocated to additional spending in the wake of the epidemic.

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Melissa Larkin-Skinner is chief executive officer of Centerstone.

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