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Five Palm Beach County Commisioners Pledge Action To Curb The Heroin Epidemic

In a commission meeting held earlier this week, county commisioner Melissa McKinlay pledged to call on city, county and state leaders for effective reforms to annihilate the opioid epidemic that claimed the lives of 216 people last year in Palm Beach County and it's on pace to kill more than 300 people in 2016. McKinlay's pledge to action was prompted by the tragic death of Tasha McCraw, who died at age 33 on November 18th.

McCraw was the young daughter of Johnnie Easton, who has served as a chief aide in the county commissioner's District 6 office for years. Easton stated that Tasha died of a drug overdose in Upstate New York after recently relocating there, but she had struggled with drug addiction for more than 11 years. McKinlay's chief aide believes the psychedelic herb kratom, sold at kava bars and gas stations across Palm Beach County, might be involved in Tasha's demise.

Grief-stricken by the premature death of her daughter, Easton wishes local leaders would allocate as many resources to curb the devastating opioid epidemic as they do to build spring training stadiums. She added that the county commission needs to recognize the pathological aspect of drug dependency and that this chronic and often fatal disease does not discriminate.

The epidemic has no regard whatsoever to race, ethnicity, age, gender, education, income, family structure or place of residence, and therefore no part of society is immune to it. Johnnie Easton also emphasized the stringent need for indigent beds in this sunny rehab haven and that the historical stigma associated with drug use and abuse is simply delayed positive results while the body count is on the rise in the county and elsewhere in Florida.

Shocked by Tasha's death, McKinlay stated that the opioid epidemic that the county is grappling with is killing our young people and "enough is enough". As recently exposed by The Post, the county allocates an insufficient amount of resources on treatment facilities and people struggling with an opioid use disorder have only few options for proper care, beyond dedicated treatment providers and volunteers.

New commissioners Mack Bernard and Dave Kerner, as well as at leastf two other Palm Beach county commissioners said that they are ready to take a different, more effective approach in response to the opioid crisis by building solid partnerships across the community and with other government agencies. Mack Bernard, who took over as District 7 commissioner on Tuesday, added that the county faces a public health crisis that requires acting with urgency, while former state representative and police officer Dave Kerner who took over in the District 3 office said that it's imperative to take action at a countywide level.

One of the measures Kerner would consider is increasing the budget for Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's office, Kerner also wants to build partnerships with both State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Sheriff Rick Bradshaw, Emphasizing that anyone can fall victim to this horrible disease, including prosecutors such as the likes of Jessica Rose, a former assistant state attorney who died age 32 of a heroin overdose on December 17th last year.

As reported by the Post, the dependency treatment industry is viciously plagued by fraud, sparking several arrests by a state-attorney-led task force and an FBI criminal investigation. Melissa McKinlay agreed that the system is broken, stating that a lot of times people with an opioid use disorder are put in jail due to insufficient rehab beds in the county. McKinlay added that there's no other disease in the country where a sick individual would die waiting for a bed to get the treatment they need and it's up to elected officials to put pressure on state and federal partners on ways to provide safe places where people seeking treatment can go to.


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