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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio focuses on opioids, takes pass on whether Florida should declare emergency



Sen. Marco Rubio has spent the Congressional recess traveling Florida to talk with officials about a grim subject: opioids.

“In just the last week I’ve met and talked with local officials and members of law enforcement in West Palm Beach, Pensacola, and Jacksonville about how the opioid epidemic is ravaging Florida’s communities. It’s clear that we must do more to make sure people seeking help are able to get the treatment they need,” Rubio said in a news release Wednesday praising $27 million in federal funds to combat the problem in Florida.

Rubio has also recently helped introduce legislation to stop the flow of fentanyl.

His attention to the crisis comes as state leaders are grappling with a response. That raises a question: What does Rubio think about calls for Gov. Rick Scott to declare an emergency, something Scott has resisted.

“That’s a decision for state government leaders to make,” a Rubio spokesman tells the Tampa Bay Times.

Maryland became the latest state to do so in March, devoting $50 million in new funding. "We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency," Gov. Larry Hogan said at the time. Other states include Virginia and Massachusetts.

Scott has refused to do so, even as he’s readily declared emergencies for Zika, Ebola and wildfires. "We're working through the Legislature, we're doing the workshops," he recently said, as Democrats again pressed him on the issue.

In 2015, the last year for which data is available, opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths.

[Last modified: Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:45pm]


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