DeSantis appoints surgeon general, announces opioid task force

Florida governor holds news conference in Sanford

SANFORD, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis is re-establishing Florida's office of drug control and creating a task force on drug abuse to combat the opioid epidemic.

DeSantis made the announcement in Sanford Monday morning, saying, "Substance abuse is a serious public safety concern."

He appointed Attorney General Ashley Moody to chair the statewide task force, which will develop a strategy and make recommendations. Moody said Florida loses 17 people a day to the drug crisis, including one on Monday in Seminole County, where the announcement took place.

The drug control office will coordinate with state and federal officials with a goal of reducing opioid abuse.

"It’s an office of drug control that we are establishing that’s going to support the task force to make sure when they are making recommendation that we are implementing that across our state agencies," DeSantis said. 

DeSantis also said Florida has secured an additional $26 million in federal funding for the state's opioid response project.

"The additional money will help us combat and treat this disease for what it is, so we are very, very excited about it," Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said.

DeSantis also announced the appointment of Dr. Scott A. Rivkees as Florida surgeon general and secretary of the Florida Department of Health. 

A practicing pediatric endocrinologist, Rivkees is a professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center. He also serves as academic chair of pediatrics at Orlando Health and pediatric chair at Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart in Pensacola. During his career, Rivkees has served as associate chair of pediatrics for research at the Yale University School of Medicine and on the faculty at Harvard Medical School

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Rivkees as Florida surgeon general, one of the most important appointments of my administration,” said DeSantis. “Dr. Rivkees brings a wealth of experience and excellent credentials that fit glove-in-hand with Florida’s needs. I look forward to working with Dr. Rivkees, whose leadership will be indispensable in addressing the opioid crisis facing our state and responsible implementation of medical marijuana now that a legislative solution is in place, among other important issues.”

“As one of Florida’s leading physicians and an internationally-renowned expert in his field, I am confident Dr. Rivkees will inspire and spearhead innovative programs as Florida Surgeon General,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. “Dr. Rivkees understands the public health challenges facing Florida families and how the Department of Health can better work with its stakeholders to deliver on our commitment to a healthy Florida. I look forward to working with Dr. Rivkees to make long-term improvements in the healthcare of Floridians.”

"I am deeply honored to accept the appointment of Florida surgeon general, a position that has the responsibility to ensure Florida’s 21 million citizens have access to affordable, safe and quality healthcare,” Rivkees said. “It is the duty of the Department of Health to ensure the health and prosperity of our citizens and visitors, young and old, healthy and infirmed. Medication safety, the opioid crisis, and the rising cost of prescription drugs are demanding issues facing Florida today and I am confident that under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Nuñez, Florida will lead the nation in innovative medical and healthcare solutions.”

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