It’s been called a crisis and an epidemic, and now opioids are officially a statewide public health emergency.

“We’re dealing with a situation that is comparable to a major influenza strain coming into a community,” P.J. Brooks said. “Right now, what we’re dealing with here is we’re dealing with overdose deaths that are incomparable to anything we’ve ever experienced before.”

According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report, Manatee and Sarasota Counties are Number one and two with the number of overdose death related to Fentanyl, an opioid often sold as heroin.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency, allowing Florida to begin allocating Federal Funding.

“We started with these roundtables and workshops around the state,” Scott said. “And we’ve been listening to families and people who have been dealing with this issue. The federal government has become a partner; the Trump administration has given us $27 million to work with our counties.”

Now they are working on how to allocate the funding for the widespread problem.

“If there was an easy answer,” Scott said. “It would already happen. There’s not an easy answer. So we’re going to work on this and hopefully we’ll find the result that will help the individuals deal with drug abuse, and also their families.”

Brooks says they’re waiting for guidance on how the funding will be spent. He says resources need to be spread across the community to effectively fight the crisis.”

“We really do need to move forward in a way that provides a comprehensive service of support,” Brooks said. “And it needs to be community based. It’s not just the treatment providers; it also has to involve law enforcement, has to involve the community governments, has to involve the school systems and we all have to work on this.

And that work needs to happen quickly.

“These are our children, these are our loved ones, these are the people we care about,” brooks said. “Yes, they may not look like someone right now that are real likeable, in truth if you had seen them six months ago, a year ago, recognize that these are just people and we need to give them the help that they need.”