HomeFlorida NewsFlorida increases penalties for those who expose first responders to fentanyl

Florida increases penalties for those who expose first responders to fentanyl


Florida – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed new legislation aimed at increasing penalties for those exposing law enforcement to fentanyl, along with expanding a pivotal program known as the Coordinated Opioid Response (CORE). The measures aim to improve public safety and offer essential assistance to those struggling with opioid addiction.

Florida increases penalties for those who expose first responders to fentanyl

Governor DeSantis highlighted the necessity of the legislation by pointing to the increased risks law enforcement officers face due to the prevalence of fentanyl, which he attributes to insufficient border security under the current federal administration. “Because of the Biden administration’s unwillingness to secure the southern border, law enforcement officers are encountering fentanyl at alarming rates,” Governor DeSantis stated. “I’m signing legislation today to keep officers safe on the job, and to further combat the opioid epidemic.”

The newly signed legislation, Senate Bill 718 (SB 718), introduces severe penalties for individuals who, through unlawful possession of fentanyl or related substances, recklessly endanger first responders, making it a second-degree felony if this exposure leads to an overdose or serious bodily harm. Additionally, the bill expands legal protections for those seeking emergency help for overdoses, aiming to encourage more people to report such incidents without fear of prosecution.

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Alongside SB 718, Governor DeSantis also signed Senate Bill 66 (SB 66), which establishes June 6th as Revive Awareness Day. This day is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the risks of opioid overdose and promoting the safe use of opioid counteractants. The Florida Department of Health has been tasked with spearheading awareness efforts.

Expanding CORE’s Reach

Simultaneously, the governor announced a significant expansion of the CORE program, extending its reach from 12 to 29 counties across Florida. This expansion means enhanced support and treatment options are now accessible to more Floridians, potentially serving as a model for other states grappling with similar crises.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, State Surgeon General, emphasized the impact of these efforts, stating, “Opioid addiction has been a scourge in the lives of too many Floridians and too many Americans around the country. Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the support of our legislators, we are continuing to take steps to address this human tragedy.”

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Shevaun Harris, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, also praised the holistic approach of the CORE program, which has shown significant effectiveness in addressing the needs of those struggling with addiction.

Promising Results and Future Prospects

The expansion of CORE is already showing promising results. Recent data indicates a substantial decrease in emergency medical service (EMS) calls related to drug overdoses in the counties where CORE operates. From January to June 2023, there was a notable reduction in such calls compared to the previous year, with Pinellas County showing the largest decrease.

Overall, Florida has witnessed a 9% reduction in overdose deaths from September 2022 to September 2023, affirming the positive impact of initiatives like CORE. These programs not only save lives but also offer a blueprint for effective opioid crisis intervention that could be replicated nationwide.

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With these new laws and the expansion of CORE, Florida is taking decisive steps toward mitigating the opioid epidemic, safeguarding its communities, and providing essential support to those in need. Governor DeSantis’s actions reflect a comprehensive approach to a complex problem, underscoring the state’s commitment to public health and safety.

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