Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida Surgeon General Addresses Opioid Epidemic At Jacksonville Health Conference

Ryan Benk

At a health care conference in Jacksonville Tuesday, Florida’s surgeon general said help is on the way for Duval and other counties dealing with the opioid crisis.

More than $27 million federal dollars will be used in the regions most affected by addiction and overdoses. Counties are expected to get the extra federal funds as soon as June.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip spoke at series of workshops on the opioid crisis shortly before declaring a public health emergency earlier this month. She said the money will go toward fighting addiction in Duval, Orange, Palm Beach and Manatee counties.

“At each of those workshops we heard proposals for how each county was going to address overdoses, provide medication-assisted treatment as well as other therapies and wrap around services,” she said.

Philip said the Department of Children and Families will disburse the moneythrough regional entities that decide which programs will be funded. In Duval, that’s Lutheran Services Florida.

Duval Health Department Director Kelli Wells, who was recently named as Philip’s deputy secretary, said the county health departments’ focus will be preventing pregnancy in opiate-addicted mothers and providing services to babies born addicted.

“So, a place that we can step in with our family  planning programs (is) using long-acting, reversible contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies in this at risk population,” she said.

Wells also said she’d like to enact a needle exchange program, similar to a Miami pilot lawmakers approved two years ago.

Wells said because drug addicts commonly share or use dirty needles, the opioid dilemma is also responsible for a rise in blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.

LISTEN | This story is featured on Redux

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.