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Feds Give Over $58 Million For Florida's Opioid Crisis

Florida first lady Casey DeSantis stands with physicians from Memorial Regional Hospital on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.
Lily Oppenheimer
Florida first lady Casey DeSantis stands with physicians from Memorial Regional Hospital on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis announced an over $58 million dollar grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat Florida’s opioid addiction crisis.

Florida Department of Health officials said the ‘Overdose Data-To-Action’ grant will also funnel $12 million dollars annually to county health departments in Broward, Duval and Palm Beach. 

The announcement came after DeSantis toured the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial Regional in Hollywood, where she talked to physicians who deliver newborn babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. 

Newborn patients with NAS experience opiate withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to it while in the womb.

“Nationwide, the number of women giving birth while addicted to opioids has more than quadrupled,” said DeSantis during a news conference at Memorial Hospital. "Babies born addicted shriek in high-pitched screams of pain, they endure seizures as their muscles flex uncontrollably, they deal with fever, diarrhea, difficulty breathing. They can’t be soothed.” 

Memorial’s “Mothers in Recovery” program was founded in 2015 to treat maternal addiction and prevent newborn babies from experiencing the pain from opioid withdrawals. So far, the program has treated over 130 moms who struggle with opioid addiction, with 92 percent of babies born drug-free, according to hospital officials. 

Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN

DeSantis also announced a new state NAS statewide prevention coordinator that will fall under the Florida Department of Health. Whoever gets the job will be commissioned with enhancing resources for pregnant women, mothers and babies. 

Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said that 1,500 children were born with NAS statewide in 2018 and close to 4,200 Floridians lost their lives to opioids addiction during that same period. 

The grant and NAS coordinator position announcement are part of the first lady’s ‘Hope for Healing’ campaign, an initiative to reach people struggling with addiction, abuse or thoughts of suicide. 

The campaign’s website consolidates resources in one place for people who are struggling with depression, abuse, anxiety, bullying, and those who are thinking about suicide.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Under a Missouri School of Journalism fellowship, I spent my last college semester in New York City editing and producing videos for Mic, an innovative news startup in One World Trade Center. After late nights of deadlines, finessing video pieces, bonding with coworkers and experimenting with editing techniques, I produced and filmed my own mini-documentary focusing on evolving Mic video strategies.
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