Hillsborough commissioner has personal reason to see opioid attack plan succeed

It’s a $14 million effort to curb the deadly effects of the drug epidemic in our area


Author: Eric Glasser

Published: 5:46 PM EDT October 23, 2018

Updated: 8:36 PM EDT October 23, 2018

Hillsborough County’s opioid task force is about to launch a comprehensive opioid attack plan considered the first of its kind in the state.

It’s a $14 million effort to curb the deadly effects of the drug epidemic in our area. And for one county commissioner in particular, it’s a battle that hits close to home.

“I put my heart and soul into this plan,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

For Murman, the region’s opioid epidemic is personal.

“Oh my gosh, I hope nobody has to go through that. It’s too painful. Too painful,” she said.

In 2015, Murman’s sister, Linda, overdosed on opioids. A traffic accident led to surgery, chronic pain, and ultimately – addiction.

“That probably went on 15 years,” said Murman. “And she really just had it. She, I think that’s why she ended up taking her own life.

This year, the same drugs will kill an estimated 300 more people in Hillsborough County alone.

So, using an existing half-cent health-care tax, the county is committing $13.7 million to battling opioid addiction.

“This is a huge project,” said Murman. “Not just for me personally because I had personal tragedy in my family, but it’s really important for the community. Because we’re experiencing epidemic here.”

This past week, Murman, who leads Hillsborough County’s opioid task force, helped pass the ambitious attack plan. Enough money to fund education programs, more help for recovering addicts, and a budget to purchase more Narcan to treat overdose patients.

“Nine out of 10 aren’t getting treatment,” said Murman. “And so we know we have to do something.”

The plan also makes more resources available for jail inmates to participate in a diversion program specifically to treat addiction. Local emergency rooms will also get more access to services. And babies born to drug addicts would get more help too.

“In one year alone, we had 579 babies born already exposed to opioids,” said Murman.

It’s a lot of money, but Murman says it’s also cost-effective. They estimate that for every dollar spent on treatment, taxpayers will save four dollars on emergency health care and nearly twice that much keeping people out of the criminal justice system.

The task force’s recommendations have been passed and are already going into effect at in local emergency rooms around Hillsborough County. Education programs and prison-related aspects should be in place over the next three to six months.

“It’s going to help,” said Murman. “There’s going to be helping. There is going to be a solution. There is a solution to this epidemic.”