TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Tampa Wednesday afternoon to deliver remarks on the opioid epidemic and how it has affected Florida, as well as the rest of the country.
Sessions spoke at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida beginning at 12:50 p.m.
He highlighted staggering statistics about drug use in America, including how 64,000 Americans -- roughly the population of Daytona Beach -- fatally overdosed in 2016.
"Drug-related deaths increased 22 percent statewide from 2015 to 2016. Fentanyl-related deaths jumped 97 percent, and methamphetamine-related deaths skyrocketed by 171 percent. In just one year, we lost more than 5,700 Floridians – an increase of nearly 1,500 – to opioid-related deaths," Sessions said Wednesday.
He announced that on Tuesday, fentanyl-related substances became scheduled on an emergency basis, making it easier for DEA and other law enforcement officials to investigative and prosecute drug traffickers.
He also said the DEA will now ask medical practitioners when they apply or renew their license to indicate whether they have received training on prescribing opioids. That, he hopes, will prevent doctors from overprescribing addictive drugs.
"That's the most important thing: We need to stop addiction," Sessions said.
Other resources he mentioned include the development of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement team and assigning special prosecutors to regions that have been hit the hardest by the epidemic.
"Together, we can stop the flow of drugs, bring down crime and give every American peace of mind," Sessions said.
During Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address in January, he announced a proposal to invest $53 million and new legislation to fight the opioid crisis in Florida.
Sessions said Florida is leading the nation in the fight against the opioid epidemic. In a statement, the Florida Democratic Party said that is not the case.
"Florida is not leading the fight in the opioid crisis because of Rick Scott's lack of action on the issue, in fact because of Scott, Florida has no agency to address this epidemic. Scott slashed budgets for drug treatment and mental health services, tried to make it harder for law enforcement to crack down on criminals pushing illegal pills, and even rejected millions in federal dollars that could help save lives. Scott's own Attorney General Pam Bondi even said his recent efforts amounted to 'nothing'," said the Florida Democratic Party.