Amid nationwide concern about the growing epidemic of opioid addiction, Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, has been chosen by leaders of Miami-Dade County to serve on a new Opioid Addiction Task Force.
The community-wide assemblage brings together experts in the field with state and county leaders, and is charged with developing an action plan to reduce addiction to heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone and other powerful pain relievers; prevent overdose-related deaths; and improve the quality of life in Miami-Dade County.
“Opioid addiction is a serious and growing public health problem we are facing,” Guilarte said. “It’s an honor that the mayor of Miami-Dade County has called upon myself and the college to be part of this task force.”
While serving, Guilarte will invite fellow faculty at the Stempel College, as well as experts in the FIU-BRIDGE institute, to help devise community-based prevention strategies.
“FIU and Stempel College have faculty whose research is very relevant in finding solutions to this public health epidemic,” Guilarte said.
Florida ranks fourth in the nation for total health care costs attributed to opioid abuse and has the eleventh highest drug-overdose mortality rate. In Miami-Dade, heroin-related deaths rose 100 percent and fentanyl-related deaths rose 310 percent in 2015, compared to 2014, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2015 annual report.
“The impact of this national epidemic can especially be seen and felt in Florida,” stated a memorandum from county attorney Abigail Price-Williams to the Board of County Commissioners calling for establishment of the task force.
A letter from county mayor Carlos Gimenez on Guilarte’s appointment stated:
“While traditional law enforcement strategy plays a critical role in the disruption of opioid distribution, the complicated problems presented require complex solutions. For this reason, we are pleased to share that [Guilarte has] been selected and appointed to participate in [the task force].”