Governor Scott declares Florida in state of emergency due to opioid epidemic

State of Emergency
Posted at 5:03 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 17:03:00-04

FL (WWSB) -- Governor Rick Scott has declared Florida in a state of emergency due to the opioid epidemic that has plagued the Suncoast and much of the state. 

Scott's executive order will allow state officials to immediately receive more than $27 million in federal grant money.

That money will be distributed to communities dealing with the opioid epidemic - for prevention, treatment and recovery services. 

Scott's order and a related "Public Health Emergency" declaration come as lawmakers look to increase criminal penalties related to fentanyl.

Wednesday, the State Senate passed a bill that would impose tough criminal penalties on people who traffic in fentanyl, which is often mixed with drugs such as heroin - one of the causes of increased overdose deaths.

Sarasota State Senator Greg Steube is the bill's sponsor.

"It allows a person to be charged with murder for causing a death through the distribution of fentanyl," Steube said. "It adds numerous fentanyl derivatives to Florida's controlled substance schedule, to ensure that all chemical variants of fentanyl are included."

The bill still needs House approval because senators made a change that would give judges some discretion in sentencing people convicted of fentanyl trafficking.