Sarasota hopeful after Gov. Scott signs opioid bill

- Calls for heroin overdoses are a daily routine at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

"It's a terrible, terrible poison. We want to end it now," said Sheriff Rick Wells.

There have been 734 heroin overdoses and 64 heroin-related deaths this year. Those numbers are already up from last year.

"It hurts us because you can not talk to a family when you're out and about that has not been touched by this terrible epidemic. We want to end it," said Sheriff Wells.

Sheriff Rick Wells and other law enforcement agencies joined in support of House Bill 477. In Sarasota Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott held a ceremonial bill signing of the anti-drug trafficking bill.

It'll allow for murder charges for anyone who provides a deadly dose of a controlled substance like Fentanyl.
It'll also press for greater charges against dealers and traffickers of opioids.

"At the end of the day, we want the dealers off the street. We want the traffickers we want to lock them up," said Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight.

Law enforcement agencies across Sarasota and Manatee counties say while the bill will help they do recognize the fact that they need to focus on treatment and education against these deadly drugs.

"We want to help them. We don't want them to have an excuse when it's time for them to throw their hands up in the air and say I'm done," said Sheriff Wells.

The vice president of outpatient and youth services at First Step of Sarasota Inc., P.J. Brooks watches as those struggling with addiction come for help.

"This is the most challenging time in my career when it comes to the impact that the opiates are having in the lives of individuals," he said.

Brooks said it'll take both a local and state effort to provide treatment and options for those in need.

"They don't know what to do. They're  being pulled drastically by the drug. They feel out of control and often times have to be some what captured," he said.

House Bill 477 officially goes into effect on October 1, 2017. 

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