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.

Valeche cites illness as the reason for his absences

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche, who missed a series of county meetings last week, told his colleagues illness is the reason he’s been hospitalized.

“I was scheduled for some medical tests regarding gastrointestinal issues I have been facing when I fell ill the week before last, and was admitted to the hospital,” Valeche wrote to his colleagues this morning. “My doctors and hospital medical staff are working through the issues and I am confident I will be back in action soon. I am grateful for all of the well wishes and outpouring of concern from so many and look forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

Valeche, 67, represents District 1, which covers northern Palm Beach County. He is facing re-election.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet on Tuesday. The subject of Valeche’s note was “absence from November 1, 2066 BOCC meeting.”

PBC Commissioner Hal Valeche
PBC Commissioner Hal Valeche

 

Palm Beach County gets more state money to fight Zika mosquito

Nearly $90,000 more will go toward trying to control the mosquito behind the Zika virus emergency.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Palm Beach County Commissioners voted to accept $89,001 in Florida Department of Health money. It will go toward labor, equipment and pesticides used to control mosquito larvae and adults.

Read Palm Beach Post coverage: myPalmBeachPost.com/zikavirus

Zika

McKinlay seeks emergency regulatory discussion on algae bloom

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay wants the 16-county Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee to hold an emergency meeting to discuss health and environmental concerns stemming algae blooms in area waters.

“Health concerns are my first priority,” McKinlay said in a statement. “Residents need to know what precautions they should take in the interim while this issue is being investigated and solutions are identified.”

McKinlay wants the coalition to meet with the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the agricultural industry.

“I have offered to host the meeting wherever necessary and as soon as possible,” McKinlay said.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Keep your information, thank you very much

As Palm Beach County commissioners sifted through challenges regarding the 2017 budget during a meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Tuesday, Commissioner Paulette Burdick had an idea.

The county should look into tying insurance costs to the lifestyles of employees, Burdick suggested. Making healthier choices – say, quitting smoking or losing weight – could reduce an employee’s health care costs.

The county has a voluntary program like that now, and Burdick’s colleagues made it clear they didn’t want it to go beyond voluntary.

After several skeptical questions – Commissioner Steven Abrams wondered aloud if employees would be asked to provide blood for testing; Commissioner Shelley Vana asked how the county might learn about an employee’s binge drinking on the weekend – Burdick told county staff she still wants her colleagues to get information on how such an insurance program could work.

“It’s clear they don’t understand it, or I am not articulating it well enough,” Burdick said.

That comment didn’t sit well with her colleagues.

“I don’t want the information,” Abrams said, saying he’d oppose implementing such a program, which he described as overly intrusive.

Vana didn’t want the information, either.

“If I need more information on a topic, I will request it,” she said. “I don’t need another commissioner to request it for me.”

After an uncomfortable pause, County Mayor Mary Lou Berger stepped in: “Moving on to another topic…”

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick talks about her desire to discuss issues regarding Uber and public safety, instead of putting it off, during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Sept. 22, 2015. The commissioners voted to extend Uber's temporary operating agreement until the end of March 2016 or until the state legislature makes any decisions.  (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)

 

Loxahatchee health specialist named to state board for children

Cayson
Cayson

Elizabeth Cayson, a government relations specialist with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, is one of nine people named to the Florida Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers.

Cayson, of Loxahatchee, who first joined the state agency in 2014, was one of three people reappointed, and six newly appointed, by Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday. Cayson’s new term runs through January 2019.

The state council helps public and private agencies implement early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and risk conditions.

Cayson, 46, has worked for the health care district for two decades.

The other eight people named to the state board are from central and northern Florida.

 

Palm Beach County Attorney: let state decide on e-cigarettes

Nicholas Quintero, manager of Atmos Electronic Cigarette, demonstrates an e-cigarette in the West Palm Beach store Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)
Nicholas Quintero, manager of Atmos Electronic Cigarette, demonstrates an e-cigarette in the West Palm Beach store Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Let the state decide where people can smoke e-cigarettes, Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman has told county commissioners.

In a memo sent Thursday, Nieman said the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, created before e-cigarettes, bans only lighted tobacco products, which the e-cigs are not.

Nieman
Nieman

Several South Florida entities, including the cities of Delray Beach and Boca Raton, have specifically outlawed the devices in places where the Act forbids tobacco smoking, but “the reach of each (ban) varies,” Nieman wrote.

If the commission moved to ban e-cigarettes in all indoor workplaces in Palm Beach County, both private and public, it would be difficult to enforce, and authorities also would have to decide on penalties, she said.

Read the full story.