Author: Justin Mckibben
Sometimes new policy can be good. Sometimes, not so much.
The opiate epidemic in America has hit some states with staggering rates of overdose and death. The paralyzing truth gripping the nation today is that more people are dying from drug overdose than homicides and car crashes. Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers collectively decimate entire communities. People from all over are starting to push officials and lawmakers for more progressive and effective solutions.
Addiction has led to an overdose outbreak that shakes the country to the core, everywhere. Now, Florida lawmakers are pushing for new legislation to try and protect and serve those who suffer from an overdose. One of the first bills on the 2017 agenda is one that hopes to change how law enforcement treats overdose victims.
Although, another bill is trying to turn things in a very different direction.
Florida HB 61 Bill
Florida Representative Larry Lee, a Democrat from Port St. Lucie, has filed a proposal titled HB 61. If approved, this piece of reform would require several new policies for healthcare providers, starting with hospitals.
- It would require hospitals to screen overdose victims to determine the need for additional health care services
- Prohibits hospitals from discharging overdose patients to a detox or treatment facility until stabilized
- Requires attending physician to attempt contact with patients primary care physician, or other treatment providers, who prescribe controlled substances to notify them of overdose
- Requires hospital to inform medical director of treatment center (if patient is currently in treatment) of the overdose
- Hospital must inform overdose victim’s family or emergency contact of overdose
- Must inform contacts what drugs they suspect to have caused overdose
- Attending physician must provide list of drug treatment providers and information about Florida’s Marchman act and Backer act in case the family or contact wishes to seek legal action to protect the addict
The Big Change in HB 61
Lastly, what is probably the most progressive part of this legislation, is the HB 61 bill would prohibit criminal charges from police officers and prosecutors against the overdose victim for possession of any drugs found on them during the incident.
This final aspect of HB 61 this writer thinks is a big deal, because from personal experience I have seen and heard many stories of individuals not calling for help in the event of an overdose out of fear of prosecution. In some cases people actually die because of the fear of criminal punishment. Adding this kind of measure to the bill is an attempt at eliminating the loss of life due to fear of discrimination. Even if it is not a perfect system, this kind of reform takes first responders and law enforcement a step closer to dealing with addicts who are fighting a fatal illness like sick people instead of criminals.
Florida SB 150 Bill Attacks Fentanyl
From across the aisle we see another push from Republican Senator Greg Steube from Sarasota. The question is, will this push go in the right direction? On December 12, he introduced bill SB 150. This is set to be a direct attack on fentanyl.
For those who are not yet familiar, fentanyl is an incredibly powerful, and lethal, opioid painkiller. It’s medical use is to sedate surgical patients and relieve chronic pain. However, being several times more powerful than heroin, it has crept into the illicit drug trade in various parts of the country. And with its arrival also came a horrifying increase in overdose and death.
This proposal means to make 4 grams or more of fentanyl a first-degree felony through:
November 20, the Palm Beach Post released an analysis of people who died in 2015 from heroin-related overdoses. Out of the 216 individuals profiled in this report, 42% of the cases were found to involve fentanyl. So of course, with Steube coming from a district hit particularly hard by the opiate epidemic, it is logical to want to do everything you can to cut the flow of fentanyl off.
Yet, some say that this kind of strategy is too close to the concept of mandatory minimums.
Is SB 150 Too Close to Mandatory Minimums?
For those who need more clarification, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were a “one-size-fits-all” strategy implemented originally back in 1951 against marijuana, then repealed in the 1970s, and refined in 1986. In 1973, New York State enacted mandatory minimums of 15 years to life for possession of more than 4 ounces of any hard drug.
The idea is that regardless of the individual or the circumstances that a certain crime will have an inflexible punishment across the board. Ever since their introduction, criminal justice advocates have fought these laws, and they have always been surrounded by debate and controversy.
Essentially, some are already saying that SB 150 will ruthlessly make addicts into victims of the already overpopulated prison system. To be clear and fair- the bill does not seem to directly require a specific prison sentence like mandatory minimums, but it’s similar in that it treats every issue related to fentanyl the same.
The issue has already been argued time and time again that non-violent low-level drug offenders have spent excessive amounts of time in prison for possession of a substance. In some cases, an individual will do more time behind bars for possessing a large quantity of drugs than someone who has actually killed someone. Some have come to the conclusion that this tactic just doesn’t work.
The fear with SB 150 is not about the manufacturers or the dealers as much as it is for the consumers. Sometimes individuals purchase drugs on the street believing it to be heroin or another substance without even knowing there is fentanyl in it. So this bill would make first-degree felons out of desperate addicts?
What is Right?
The big question we all face at the end of the day is- what is the right thing to do? How is the best way to handle something that feels so utterly out of hand?
Well, it would seem like its time to finally let go of the archaic stigma. More states and law enforcement officials are turning to compassionate and supportive progress. Many places in America are starting to do everything they can to help people struggling with addiction to find help before it is too late. So why move backwards?
In my opinion, strictly based on what has been presented so far, SB 150 seems dangerous. There are countless advocates out there who say that intensifying the punishment is not how you deter the crime. Especially when it comes to addiction, because this kind of method still suggests it is a moral failing and not a psychological and physical illness.
HB 61 seems to be trying to call health care providers to action and add more accountability on the front lines in the fight against the overdose outbreak. At the same time it seems to move in the opposite direction of SB 150 by trying to limit the persecution of addicts. HB 61 makes more room to help preserve life and offer treatment and solutions. By now we should already know, the solution isn’t a War on Drugs, it is community and compassion.
These are some of the initial responses to recommendations recently made by the grand jury. Every day there are countless people suffering. And every day there are countless more recovering and fighting to help others recover. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Recently the big election season of 2016 came to a close. Not only do we have a new president, but also a few new states with big marijuana reforms. Florida is among the states to turn the tide and legalize medical marijuana, with specific restrictions of course. But one restriction that could be imposed most people probably don’t know about with medical marijuana is one on gun-ownership. So when taking a look at what some U.S. courts have ruled in the past, should medical marijuana block your gun ownership rights? How could this impact medical marijuana in Florida?
Rowan Wilson VS 9th U.S. Circuit Court
The case of S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada resident, is what recently brought this subject to light. In 2011 Wilson attempted to purchase a handgun but was denied when the gun store owner recognized her as a medical marijuana cardholder. She insisted that she only obtained the card as a political statement in solidarity with legalization. In court Wilson maintained that she does not herself use marijuana.
In August of 2016 Wilson’s hopes were shot down. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 3-0 vote that if you have a medical marijuana card, you can’t buy a gun. This result came based on the idea that medical marijuana:
“-raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
This isn’t only limited to regular marijuana users or even specifically addicts, but to anyone who has a medical marijuana card. According to the court, this ruling actually does not violate the 2nd Amendment. They claim to be in agreement with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying that firearms retailers should assume that medical marijuana card holders use the drug, even if they do not. This courts jurisdiction includes:
- District of Alaska
- District of Arizona
- Central District of California
- Eastern District of California
- Northern District of California
- Southern District of California
- District of Hawaii
So how will it play out now that there is medical marijuana in Florida?
The 4th Circuit and the Federal Level
Federal law already prohibits gun purchases by those who are described as:
“-unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance.”
Back in 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insisted that the law applies to marijuana users-
“regardless of whether [their] State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.”
This makes sense, since even though many states are legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law. So medical marijuana in Florida is subject to the same idea of federal regulation.
In the case of United States v. Carter in 2014 the connection between marijuana and violence came as the court cited a number of studies suggesting a significant link between drug use and violence. This included marijuana. In the words of the 4th Circuit, those studies found:
- “Probationers who had perpetrated violence in the pastwere significantly more likely to have used a host of drugs — marijuana, hallucinogens, sedatives, and heroin — than probationers who had never been involved in a violent episode.”
- “Almost 50% of all state and federal prisoners who had committed violent felonieswere drug abusers or addicts in the year before their arrest, as compared to only 2% of the general population.”
- “Individuals who used marijuana or marijuana and cocaine, in addition to alcohol, weresignificantly more likely to engage in violent crime than individuals who only used alcohol.”
- Among adolescent males, “marijuana use in one yearfrequently predicted violence in the subsequent year.”
The 4th Circuit argues that the question of correlation vs. causation doesn’t matter. They insist it was not the government’s responsibility to prove a causal link between drug use and violence. Simply put, they didn’t need to prove if drug use causes violence or if violence causes the drug use. To ban someone from owning a gun all they need is to make any connection.
Which, when you think about it, seems almost lazy.
Medical Marijuana in Florida VS Other Substances
So what we want to ask is- should using medical marijuana keep you from owning a gun?
Essentially the courts say that anyone who uses medical marijuana or any substance has an increased chance of risk behavior. They say that if someone has a medical marijuana card, basically they are too dangerous to allow a firearm.
But given this logic, it should apply to every substance. There are plenty of other drugs that technically fit the bill, and not just illegal ones.
Drug policy researchers Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken have pointed out that research also indicates that tobacco users also are more likely to engage in crime relative to the general population. The team published a book in 2011 called Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. In this publication they wrote:
“Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers have a higher rate of criminality,”
“Smoking in and of itself does not lead to crime, but within the population of smokers we are more likely to find individuals engaged in illicit behavior.”
Then of course there is the obvious other substance that should be on the chopping block; alcohol. The authors wrote that there’s a much stronger link between violent behavior and alcohol than there is for many illegal drugs,
“There is a good deal of evidence showing an association between alcohol intoxication and pharmacologically induced violent crime,”
The truth is, alcohol is probably one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, yet because it is “socially acceptable” it is not under nearly as much restriction. So if we are going to consider medical marijuana in Florida as means to restrict our 2nd Amendment, shouldn’t we see it the same for alcohol, or even other prescription medications?
We have said it time and time again- a drug is a drug. If we truly believe any substance, legal or not, that can be abuse is equally dangerous in terms of addiction and risk behavior than should we treat them equally? Should we restrict the right to own a gun for anyone who uses anything? Does medical marijuana make someone too dangerous to own a gun? Or is this discrimination?
Overall, the issue of marijuana reform is an increasingly complex issue and in the future, solutions to the problems of legalization will be addressed. But for those who struggle with addiction marijuana can still be a dangerous substance. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Boynton Beach is beautiful area in South Florida, just north of Delray Beach and south of West Palm in Palm Beach County. The area has been described as “America’s gateway to the Gulf Stream.” Boynton Beach has also been hit by the affected opiate epidemic. Roughly 250 overdoses have occurred this year in Boynton, which is the third largest city in Palm Beach County. While some cities have seen similar spikes in overdoses and drug-related deaths for some time, Boynton Beach experienced a record breaking jump in overdoses overnight this past Tuesday.
The reports of drug overdoses started before sunset. By Wednesday morning police and paramedics had been called to the scene for five separate overdose incidents. For one night, this is the most the city of Boynton Beach has ever seen. As if that weren’t intense enough, all the overdoses occurred in a 12-hour span.
Out of the five, two died and three survived thanks to the life-saving efforts of first responders. This is just another example of how hard the opiate epidemic has hit some cities now more than ever. It is also an indication some of the efforts being made in Palm Beach County are for good reason.
Tracking the Problem
The only available details on the five victims so far include:
- 5:19 p.m. report of a man found in a parked car near Seacrest Boulevard
- 9:44 p.m. a man was found in a car at the 7-11 convenience store
- 10:31 p.m. a 40-year-old man was found dead in his bathroom at the Las Ventanas apartment complex on Federal Highway
- 30 minutes later, a man was found near the Rosemary Scrub Park
- 2 a.m. a man identified as Thomas Varner was found unresponsive at the Homing Inn on Federal Highway — a place police know well for its number of overdoses
Varner, who was the final overdose of the five, received CPR from police officers at the scene. After an attempt to revive Varner by paramedics using life-saving medication Narcan, used to reverse the effects of opiate overdose, he was rushed to Bethesda Hospital East. where doctors tried to save him. Unfortunately, Varner did not survive his overdose. Police Captain Mike Johnson, the shift’s commander during the evening in question, expressed his own concerns with the news, saying:
“We’re in the business of saving lives and when you can’t do that, especially when you have two last night that were fatal, that’s frustrating. But we also recognize that we’re just one prong of this public health crisis.”
Boynton Beach is Not Alone
Boynton Beach is definitely not the only city dealing with increasing drug overdoses. The outbreak of overdose rates and overdose deaths is nationwide. For Palm Beach County, the ‘recovery capitol’ also faces its obstacles with addiction.
- In Lake Worth alone there were 220 overdoses from January to August of this year
- Palm Beach County firefighters responded to 1,246 opioid-related overdoses in that same period
- Delray Beach already had about 394 by late September
Thankfully, Narcan and Naloxone are readily available for first responders, and expansion programs continue to progress across the country. In this 12-hour period four of the victims were taken to Bethesda and were given Narcan.
The fifth man he had already died at the scene.
Not Just Heroin?
Another question is concerning recent reports from several spots in the country where other dangerous drugs are being mixed in with heroin. According to Police Captain Mike Johnson this is- “more likely than not a new batch of heroin hit the city in the last couple of days.” So the question becomes, is there a new batch mixed with something even more toxic set to hit Boynton Beach.
At Las Ventanas, where one victim was found dead, police believe they found the painkiller Fentanyl in the apartment. Fentanyl is an opiate said to be more than 50 times as powerful as heroin. This is not the first time Fentanyl has caused some problems for Palm Beach County. Medical examiner records indicate Fentanyl also played a role in more than 100 overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2015. Captain Johnson said,
“It’s an obvious public health crisis. Law enforcement is only one component of addressing that health crisis. The amount of heroin that’s being sold on the street and the amount that’s being cut with Carfentanil or Fentanyl is increasing.”
Due to the rising risks present in some communities Palm Beach County is already organizing events and seminars to properly educate and arm the public with resources for overdose prevention.
One of the most prominent aspects of attacking the addiction issue is the existence of effective, supportive and compassionate drug addiction treatment. One powerful way we can prevent overdose is to make sure those suffering get the quality of care they deserve. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Runners, walkers and volunteers… take your mark and run to the rescue!
Palm Partners and Palm Healthcare are proudly supporting an event hosted by the Harrigan Foundation on February 6th, 2016 that is dedicated to trying to help find a way to best serve the amazing men and women who bravely serve their communities as First Responders.
What most people don’t know is that after experiencing terrible accidents day after day first responders can actually suffer from very serious trauma or even develop harsh addictions. Some recent shocking stats have shown:
- Firefighters: Up to 29% if firefighters engage in alcohol abuse.
- Police: 25% believe drinking to be part of the norm yet 25% have been affected negatively by the drinking of other coworkers.
- EMTs: EMTs have the highest rate of alcohol and drug abuse. It’s been revealed that 40% engage in high risk alcohol abuse and close to 20% experience PTSD.
Run to the Rescue will be our first annual 5K/1 mile walk here in the incredible beautiful scenery of Delray Beach, Florida. The Harrigan Foundation is a non-profit organization designed to actively pursue new and exciting resources. The foundation plans to volunteer time and make a positive impact in the community. The Harrigan Foundation has previously committed itself to serving the community in other ways such as the Basket Brigade during the Thanksgiving holiday season, and now we are working toward making a difference in more lives than ever.
For the First Responders
The Run to the Rescue event is one organized by the Harrigan Foundation and supported by Palm Healthcare that is determined to sponsor First Responders who suffer from addiction and/or trauma disorders. This includes the amazing and courageous men and women who serve as:
Honoring the great deal of devotion, sacrifice and compassion it takes to become one of these every day heroes the Harrigan Foundation has devoted itself to honoring the valiant individuals who work tirelessly to protect life and liberty.
Sponsor a Hero
The Run to the Rescue 5K/1 mile walk will be a fun and exciting way to help raise money to fund the Palm Healthcare scholarship program in order to sponsor any treatment our First Responders may need. These heroes have already done so much for us, and it is a chance for a call to action in order to give back.
The race is set to begin at Anchor Park in Delray Beach, Florida- 340 South Ocean Blvd. Starting whistle will be sounding off at 7:00AM with walkers following shortly after. Event details are as follows:
The Run to the Rescue 5K
- Time: 7:00AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: $30 (price increases December 31, 2015 at 11:59PM EST)
The Run to the Rescue 1 Mile Walk
- Time: 7:15AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: $10 (Registration ends February 1, 2016 at 11:59PM EST)
- Time: 6:00AM EST- 9:00AM EST
- Price of Admission: FREE (Registration ends February 1, 2016 at 11:59PM EST)
So for those who are not interested in running, there is still an opportunity to participate in the event and show support. The 5K will be a timed through AccuChip, while all people interested in walking the race are encouraged to bring their children.
There will also be snacks and refreshments before and after for all those who chose to step up and become part of this awesome experience with us. Not to mention an awards ceremony to celebrate those who came to compete with compassion.
For more information or to get registered to participate you can go to https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/DelrayBeach/HFRuntotheRescue5K and take part in this inspiring event to help change the lives of the remarkable and courageous men and women who work every day to save lives.
No first responder should have to stop doing their job because of the disease of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Led by the grassroots organization Families for Sensible Drug Policy there has swelled up from under the rubble and debris of the war on drugs and opiate epidemic in America a movement among parents, policymakers and clinicians which has rigorously employed its efforts to change a insufficient system that it views as having historically stigmatized substance abuse and addiction, responding in kind with punishment instead of providing solutions.
This diverse group of stakeholders is powerfully compelled by what they have described as “pain, compassion, love and family,” and recently the collective gathered at The New School in New York with a common focus, building momentum for their goals, including:
- Viewing substance abuse compassionately
- Eliminating the addiction stigma
- Treating addiction as a complex clinical phenomenon instead of punishment for addicts
September 24, 2015 a diverse audience gathered into a lecture hall at The New School for Social Research in Manhattan to hear from an assortment of experts from a variety of fields related to this ever-present issue.
Bringing Communities Together
This event was formally entitled “Bringing Communities Together: A New Vision for Helping Individuals and Families Impacted by Substance Use and Mental Health Issues,” and featured numerous organizations involved in trying to overcome the old archaic ideals of stigma and aggressive prosecution of addiction.
Included in the conversation was a vast range of participants, including mothers of addicts and even retired police officers and harm reduction psychologists.
All voices seemed unanimous on at least one belief- that the War on Drugs has conditioned Americans to see drug abuse and addiction as a crime with punishment being the only appropriate response. As many have gathered before this year, the collective intended to shift the conversation to:
- Improving education
- Promoting supervision and treatment for drug abuse and addiction
- Putting a stop to the unfortunate traumas often created by the current system
The Big Guns Against Stigma
Many heavy hitters in the revolution were in attendance, such as:
- Jenifer Talley of The New School and assistant director at The Center for Optimal Living
- Scott Kellogg, president of the Division of Addictions of the New York State Psychological Association
- Daniel Raymond, the policy director at the Harm Reduction Coalition
Daniel Raymond spoke on improvements and progress with public health reform. He noted the fact that the CVS franchise recently announced it would offer naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug, without a prescription in 11 more states, and even invited people to a further discussion on supervised injection facilities.
- Families for Sensible Drug Policy, a non-profit from Philadelphia that has grown to international involvement
Carol Katz Beyer, one founder of Families for Sensible Drug Policy, passionately spoke about the counterproductive effect of punishing kids using drugs in high school—removing them from healthy school environments and extracurricular activities, and even referred to what she labeled the “school to prison pipeline,” claiming that “privatized prisons are making money off of our children, as a commodity.”
- Jerry Otero, M.A.Youth Policy Manager for The Drug Policy Alliance
Otero stated that any effective and positive policy that has recently been implemented to shift the focus from stigma to solutions has been based on 4 pillars,
“Prevention, treatment, harm reduction and public safety.”
- Major Neill Franklin, executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
In his speech Franklin conveyed the failure of the current drug policy, citing elevated crime rates while advocating for a healthier more respectful relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Shattering Stigma with Revolution
The good news in relation to these kinds of statements and strategies is that we are already gradually able to witness a shift in many of the more progressive states and police agencies from punishment to treatment.
We have seen programs initiated in several areas allowing addicts to commit themselves to treatment through reaching out to law enforcement agencies to get help. There are programs designed where addicts in many areas can seek treatment by turning in their substances or just asking for help, there are states that are now offering those found in possession of drugs the opportunity for treatment in lieu of jail time, and even intervention programs where police officers go door to door speaking with known drug offenders or addicts about the possibility of treatment without penalties.
With more and more communities uniting, and more and more government action being taken, we may very well be witnessing the beginning of one of the most profound periods of change in the way drugs and addiction are addresses across the board. It is safe to say that as we better understand the addict and shed the stigma, we are seeing a better path toward helping those suffering recover from their addictions without stigma hanging over their heads.
Compassionate and caring connection between the communities, their leaders, their law enforcement and their population impacted by drug abuse is saving lives. Compassionate treatment is one of the surest ways we can effectively alter the landscape and save even more lives, and in recovery it all begins with taking a step toward a solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135