‘Our kids are dying’: Medical providers, elected officials discuss opioid crisis solutions

Community leaders, including Congressman Gus Bilirakis,  met Wednesday night to talk solutions about the growing opioid crisis.

Elected officials, treatment providers and recovering addicts were all in one place to raise the alarm on the growing opioid crisis that's ravaged communities, torn apart families and claimed countless lives.

"It's just inexcusable. It's inexcusable. Our kids are dying. Our kids are dying. This is a national emergency," Bilirakis said.

According to the CDC, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death of among adults 18-45 and it's hitting Florida hard. Just last month, 19 people overdosed on fentanyl and died in rural Gadsden County near Tallahassee. It's been a wake-up call for state leaders like Congressman Bilirakis who's taking action by meeting with communities and talking about solutions with treatment providers like Will Atkinson.

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"Fentanyl testing strips are necessary for helping save lives. They do not need to be designated as paraphernalia. If we're going to give out Narcan, which frankly only enables breathing, we should give people the opportunity to test if their drugs are tampered with," Recovery Epicenter Foundation Executive Director Will Atkinson said.

Prescription bottle with pills spilled out.

Along with providing fentanyl test strips, Atkinson says the state should also loosen funding restrictions on peer support--a step in the recovery process that usually comes after someone has received clinical treatment. Right now, Florida requires a clinician be part of the peer-support process for the program to get state funding. 

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"That diminishes the ability for people like myself who are peer support specialists, to be able to effectively help our community because we cannot be funded to do so," Atkinson said.

Atkinson is hoping for more forums like the one on Wednesday where providers on the front lines can engage one-on-one with elected officials and come up with real solutions. Conversations that can hopefully help curb a growing opioid crisis.