Baker Co. commissioner reaches out to McKinlay on opioids

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden reached out to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for tips on how to start an opioids task force, an email exchange between the two commissioners shows.

“Our county, Baker County, is heavy into meth addiction and now we are seeing heroin move in,” Rhoden wrote to McKinlay.

But Rhoden has a more personal motivation to get involved in the fight.

“With a daughter who is a heroin addict and a grandson who is in prison from meth addiction I would like to do whatever it takes to educate and help our community about this issue,” Rhoden wrote.

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The daughter of a former aide to McKinlay died of an opioid overdose in November, a day before The Palm Beach Post published a series of articles on the devastation the crisis has brought to the county.

McKinlay has become a vocal advocate for more state and local action to combat the crisis, which has not only devastated families but wreaked havoc on local budgets.

The commissioner pushed for Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency, a move he ultimately took. And McKinlay has asked the county attorney to research the possibility of bringing suit against pharmaceutical companies, whose potent products are at the heart of the crisis.

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Delray Beach has decided to file suit against Big Pharma, a decision McKinlay shared Wednesday with other elected officials as they participated in a joint meeting between the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

Responding to Rhoden about forming a task force, McKinlay reached out to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park.

“He led the charge,” McKinlay wrote. “I’ll ask him to call you.”

McKinlay invited Rhoden to Palm Beach County to attend an opioid task force meeting and offered sympathy for her family’s struggles.

“Thanks for sharing your story,” McKinlay wrote. “I am so sorry your family has been dealing with this.”

After ripping Trump, Frankel meets with local mayors

Lois Frankel speaks to the media on March 6, 2017. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, held a discussion with mayors in her congressional district Wednesday, when they complained about a lack of mental health resources and sought her help in getting more federal funding.

Frankel started her day by ripping President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But that hot topic gave way to more municipal concerns when the congresswoman met with nine mayors in her district, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.

Frankel reminded those in attendance that a recent federal funding bill includes money for local governments that have incurred security and roadway management expenses during President Trump’s many trips to Palm Beach County.

“The burden is spread out among the taxpayers,” Frankel said before joking that the county could see fewer presidential trips now that the weather is warming.

“All I can say is thank goodness it’s summer,” she said.

Frankel told the mayors Delray Beach is working on an ordinance to regulate sober homes. The mayors said more beds need to be available for the mentally ill and told the congresswoman they’d like to get more federal funding to help with community renovation projects, tearing down abandoned buildings and youth programs that could steer young people away from drugs and make a dent in the opioid crisis.

PBC looking to boost spending to combat heroin/opioid crisis

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)

Palm Beach County commissioners, opening discussions about their 2018 budget, are considering setting aside $2 million to combat the ongoing heroin/opioid crisis.

The Palm Beach Post has provided extensive coverage of that crisis, which has devastated families and strained the resources of first responders and hospitals.

Commissioners are considering dipping into its reserves to boost current year spending to $1 million to combat the problem.

“I think this is a drop in the bucket given the scale of the problem,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said of the proposed expenditures.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay agreed.

“Anyone who fails to see this as the public health crisis that it is is walking around with their eyes closed,” she said.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on the county’s initial budget discussions.

Pot summit draws PBC officials

The Florida Association of Counties has organized a pot summit that will be held in the Orlando area on Saturday, and, no, neither Cheech and Chong nor Snoop Dog are expected to attend.

Instead, county officials from across the state – including Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay – are gathering to discuss the issues surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana.

The county is waiting to see what state legislators do in the area before crafting its own set of regulations.

County officials hear from the director of the Florida Dept. of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use on what steps DOH have taken so far in regulating and implementing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Other presenters will include county attorneys, law enforcement and officials from Denver, whose high-profile legalization has come with a few snags.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

 

Delay for zoning of pot dispensaries gets initial approval

Palm Beach County moved forward with plans for a one-year moratorium on zoning applications for medical marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers.

Commissioners voted 6-0 in favor of the moratorium, which they have said would give state legislators time to come up with rules the county would follow when it establishes regulations.

Last year, voters approved a change to the state constitution to permit the use of medical marijuana.

The moratorium will be considered for final approval when commissioners meet on February 23.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Commissioners ask county staff to look into sober homes

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor has directed county staff members to conduct an overview of sober homes in the county, which have generated opposition from those who feel the private, unregulated facilities lead to increased violence and drug abuse in some communities.

“We as commissioners really need to know what’s going on,” Taylor said during a meeting Tuesday.

It is not clear what staff will review, and there is no timetable for the completion of that review.

Taylor’s colleagues were in general agreement with the notion of a review. Commissioner Shelley Vana added that she wants to know what can be done to make sure sober home operators who solicit for out-of-town clients provide those clients with a way to return to their communities if treatment is unsuccessful and ends early.

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner  Priscilla A. Taylor (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County tweaks down its figures for cost of jailing minor pot offenders

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
Van Arnam
Van Arnam

County managers now say the cost of housing people caught with small amounts of pot is less than a third of what a study previously had concluded.

In an overview provided last week to Palm Beach County Commissioners, deputy county manager John Van Arnam said a Criminal Justice Commission review showed the county spent $1.1 million over the last seven years to jail people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana.

But in an update sent out Monday, Van Arnam said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials challenged the math, saying the county should examine only the cost of housing people arrested just for misdemeanor possession. Using that calculation, the total came to only $322,245.

County commissioners passed an ordinance last year that would mean a fine or community service instead of jail time for those caught with 20 grams or less. But the PBSO  said it

Taylor
Taylor

would continue to enforce tougher state laws that make possession of small amounts of pot a criminal offense.

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who ordered the review, has argued the money spent jailing people picked up for simple possession be pulled from PBSO’s budget and come out of its pocket.

Annual jailing costs — calculated down from last week’s figure of $159,000 to $46,035 — are a tiny fraction of PBSO’s massive budget, $560 million in the 2016 budget year.