TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A local program treating opioid addiction could be in jeopardy if Florida lawmakers approve proposed cuts to funding.
Every day, 16 Floridians die from what's been called an "opioid epidemic," according to the Florida Behavioral Heath Association.
"This would be a good thing for our area before this really becomes a big problem - to go ahead and address it at the ground level," said Kimberley Petersen, the chief of corrections at the Leon County Sheriff's Office.
The program uses the drug Vivitrol to help inmates recover from addiction once they're released.
"We have a total of 8 referrals now," said Patrick Lane, a counselor and Vivitrol nurse at DISC Village. "We're getting new referrals every day and going out and seeing them at the jail."
But the future of the program is in the air, with lawmakers considering cuts to opioid treatment funding. The House, proposing $7 million in cuts for the next budget.
"Those funds would be impacted if these cuts do come through," said Lane. "It would basically cripple our jail program."
According to the Florida Behavioral Heath Association, the number of opioid-related deaths in Florida jumped 35 percent from 2015 to 2016. The group says it's pushing lawmakers to come up with more ways to get help.
"Funding treatment, building bridges between emergency departments and community treatment agencies to try to move people that are overdosing into a treatment experience," said Mark Fontaine, the CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association.
"It seems like it's an annual battle that we have to make a case that what we do is important, what we do is valued, and what we do helps people and actually saves people's lives," said Lane.
If funding is approved, the joint program by the sheriff's office and DISC Village hopes to expand to include jails from neighboring counties.
The goal for the legislature is to pass the budget by the end of session on March 9.