Crist Announces Over $1 Million For Pinellas Opioid Recovery

Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL) announced two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to local service providers responding to increased opioid abuse and dependence impacting Pinellas County. Allocated by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, grant amounts of $499,999 and $525,000 will be awarded respectively to the Pinellas County government and the Westcare Foundation to increase the availability and use of Naloxone by emergency response personnel and substance abuse disorder treatment programs to reverse the effects of overdoses among those recovering from opioid dependence.

"In 2020, opioid overdoses in Pinellas County rose by nearly 50% over the previous year, according to the Pinellas County Opioid Task Force. That's an overdose every 26 hours," said Crist. "It's clear that the isolation and turmoil of the COVID-19 crisis have pushed more of our neighbors into the spiral of addiction, leaving devastated family and friends behind. In response to this epidemic within an epidemic, I am grateful to announce over $1 million in grant funding to Pinellas County and Westcare to help providers reverse overdoses and help those struggling with substance abuse disorder move forward on the road to recovery."

“We are thrilled to receive this funding to support our community’s first responders through expanded distribution of life-saving overdose reversal drug, Naloxone, and support to overdose victims through a wellness check and connection to treatment services," said Karen Yatchum, Pinellas County Human Services Director. "Our community continues to see a rising trend in opioid related overdoses and deaths that must be reversed.”

"WestCare has provided behavioral health services to Pinellas County for more than 20 years and is grateful for the opportunity to serve hundreds of individuals currently struggling with opioid addiction," said Larry McArthur, WestCare VP of Operations. "Drug use is killing people at unprecedented rates and Pinellas County has one of the highest opioid overdose rates in Florida. The expansion of WestCare’s medication assisted treatment program is essential to prevent drug overdoses and save lives, particularly the lives of the homeless and other resource-limited people struggling with addiction."

As a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Crist helped secure an additional $17 million for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in fiscal year 2021 for a total funding level of $3.854 billion.

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