SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Governor Ron DeSantis said the opioid crisis is getting worse in the midst of a pandemic, so he announced a new multi-million-dollar grant to help people fight their addictions and find employment.
“In September, I celebrated eight years clean from my demons of opioid addiction,” former opioid addict Katie Bowman said.
Bowman said she was once addicted to opioids and can understand why more Floridians are turning to pills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This epidemic is really an addict's dream because we love isolation and when we’re alone, we like to be alone with our shame and our guilt and our addiction,” Bowman said.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said it has seen a 15 percent increase in the number of opioid-related deaths.
“In Seminole County alone, we have nearly just shy of 600 overdoses since Jan. 1,” Sheriff Dennis Lemma said. “I think if you look at that that’s pretty standard in populations our size. What’s frightening is 76 people have died of an opioid-related overdose since Jan. 1.”
Governor DeSantis said overdoses are up 62% statewide over the last six months compared to last year.
In an effort to fight back, he announced a new pilot program that will be funded with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
“This new pilot program will focus on connecting individuals who have been impacted by opioid abuse, addiction and other substance abuse disorders with the resources they need to recover and find meaningful employment in their communities,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the pandemic’s effect on employment and the economy has also hurt addicts in the midst of recovery.
Experts at the roundtable discussion agree that securing a job can help people get on a healthier path to healing.
“Finding that gainful employment for myself was a key component,” Bowman said.