Hillsborough Allocates $13.7M To Fight Opioid Crisis

By JULIO OCHOA  OCT 17, 2018

Hillsborough commissioners on Wednesday voted to spend $13.7 million dollars over the next year to combat opioid addiction.

Most of the money will be spent on prevention and treatment but the county has also set aside funding for education and recovery.

Commissioners acted amid a growing epidemic in Hillsborough, which saw more babies born addicted to opioids in 2016 than any other county in the state. Since 2012, more than 1,000 people have died in Hillsborough from opioid overdoses.

But only one in 10 people who need treatment are getting it, said Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman.

“We will break the cycle of addiction here in Hillsborough County,” Murman said. “This crosses over all socioeconomic boundaries. This is the rich, the poor, the middle-aged, this is adolescents, which is where we’re seeing our biggest rise in opioid deaths unfortunately.”

The county will pay for more beds at detox centers and provide treatment for those who can’t afford it. It will support medication assisted treatments like methadone and Suboxone, two drugs that stop opioid cravings.

On the prevention side, the money will pay for increased access to Narcan, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. It will fund diversion programs that put addicts into treatment instead of the prison system. It will also pay for education programs for people who use the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan.

The county will pay for the initiative with some of the money it collects for the Health Care Plan, which is supported by a half-cent sales tax and provides care for those who cannot afford it. It will also use federal and state funding.

“It’s an issue we have to embrace,” Murman said. “We know it’s impacting our county in a huge way.”

The county expects the initiative to save money over the long run in criminal and health care costs, Murman said.

The plan was developed by the county’s opioid task force, which was formed last year to address the opioid crisis.




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.”



Timeline to fix Big Bend interchange in Riverview moves up dramatically

Nicole Grigg

11:50 AM, Oct 31, 2018

7:54 PM, Oct 31, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Big changes are coming to the Big Bend area in South Hillsborough County sooner than expected.

ABC Action News has learned that the project that was expected to be done in two phases will now be done simultaneously in one project.

As part of our commitment to Driving Tampa Bay Forward, we have been following this area for at least year, showing the dangers and problems with this stretch of road that is a main artery to Interstate 75.

The project was initially to be done in a ten-year projection timeline, but now it has been refined into a six-year project with the start date moving up several years ahead of time. Click here to view the projections and timeline.

Some of the main changes to come will be widening Big Bend Road from a four-lane divided road to six lanes. This will include enhanced pedestrian, bicycle and bus facilities.

One of the biggest changes will be improvements to the I-75 interchange. As of now, drivers must make a left hand turn to merge north onto the interstate.

Here you can see the new renderings to fix that:

The peak time for congestion around Big Bend has been calculated to the timeframe of 7:40 a.m., according to the county.

The county said the major news for this project is that it is completely funded now with help from FDOT.

Hillsborough County and FDOT are partnering together to complete both projects together. They are to be completed now in 2024.

Commissioner for District 1 in Hillsborough County Sandra Murman released the following statement, it reads in part:

“While it has been very frustrating for our South County residents, I’m pleased we have finally been able to tell them there’s a plan that is 100% funded to widen Big Bend and improve the I-75 interchange, at Big Bend, within the next five years. Relief is coming to better accommodate growth and overall mobility of traffic flowing on Big Bend, to provide the ultimate goal of congestion relief.”

Murman said the construction will start in 2020, several years ahead of the initial projection. 

As for why it can’t start sooner, we’re told that the land acquisition phase to fix Big Bend Road will take time.




Editorial: Glazer Children’s Museum quickly regained its step

Published: October 18, 2018

Updated: October 19, 2018 at 11:46 AM


The Glazer Children’s Museum is a popular attraction in Tampa and a crown jewel in the downtown waterfront arts district. That reflects the pride and ownership the public has taken in making this signature destination a success. It’s also why it was good to see the museum’s governing board take a step Thursday to prevent a momentary hiccup from becoming something bigger.

As the Tampa Bay Times’ Paul Guzzo reported this week, Jennifer Stancil was terminated from her $169,280 a year job last month as museum president and chief executive, a post she held for three years. Exactly why remained a mystery to those outside the museum, at least initially, as the 21-member board underwent a code of silence. When the Times pressed for details this week, those contacted on the board refused to talk. Board chairman Kenneth Curtin emailed his colleagues Tuesday, warning that reporters might call and urging them to “just either not respond” or “just say no comment.”

Stonewalling rarely works and is always bad public relations. Circling the wagons might be typical in business. But the museum exists thanks to public support and confidence in its civic contribution. In the three-year period ending in 2016, the museum’s latest tax records show, government grants to the museum totaled more than $1.8 million, about 21 percent of total revenue over that time period. Local governments have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money to the museum this year. It’s a worthy investment. But obligations cut both ways.

On Thursday, after rethinking the matter, Curtin spoke to the Times — and his account actually reflected well on the museum. Board members had no major beef with Stancil, apart from some housekeeping matters, but rather wanted new leadership for a growing museum in a dynamic urban environment. Curtin took pains to speak respectfully of Stancil, and said his apprehension for board members to speak publicly was rooted in his concern that Stancil’s contributions and skills not be diminished. Curtin’s retelling of her departure is in line with public records the Times had reviewed as of Thursday.

This would have been a good story to tell from the outset. Private citizens who donate their time as board members for community institutions deserve credit for their commitment. But this is a lesson in how the public and private worlds can intertwine. Curtin sounds genuine when he says he gets it. And credit Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, a museum board member, for nudging her colleagues to be more transparent.

There was never any whiff that this change in leadership had anything in common with previous problems at other local attractions, such as the Museum of Science & Industry and ZooTampa at Lowry Park. But the community expects these boards to be out front. The children’s museum served the community and its brand by addressing the matter and by promising to keep the lines of communication open and stronger.




Problems in accounting contributed to ouster of Glazer Children’s Museum leader

Paul GuzzoTimes staff writer


Published: October 19, 2018


TAMPA — Failure to properly document the use of a $211,000 grant is one example of job failures that led to the firing last month of Jennifer Stancil, chief executive since 2015 of the Glazer Children’s Museum, the museum’s board chairman said.

The grant money from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County helped pay for 139 students to take part in Science Action Clubs run by the museum. But the Children’s Board complained in a July letter that the museum had failed to provide information about the children that was required to justify the grant.

The contract wasn’t the only reason Stancil was fired, board chairman Kenneth Curtin said, but it did serve as a “discussion point” in the board’s unanimous vote to take the action.

Curtin said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that Stancil had voluntarily resigned in September as head of the private, nonprofit museum. But in about face, he said during a conference call Thursday with the Times that his statement wasn’t true.


“I’ve done that in my private practice,” he said. “When people get terminated, we give them the option to voluntarily resign with severance.”

He added, “We wanted to be fair. She has a family. We appreciate all she has done.”

At Curtin’s instruction Tuesday, members of the museum board declined to comment on the departure.

One of them was Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman. Murman, also on the conference call Thursday, was more forthcoming, saying, “I don’t think it’s a secret that Jen and I didn’t get along that well.”

Murman added, “I rose to a higher level and tried to evaluate her on her work performance and go forward from there. … We believe we can find someone who can do a better job, to be honest.”

The Times reported Wednesday that Stancil had been forced out, citing emails obtained from the city of Tampa. Representatives from the city and Hillsborough County, which contribute to the museum’s budget, sit on the museum board.


Under Florida’s public records law, the Children’s Board, a taxpayer-funded agency, provided the Times with accounts of its $211,000 grant to the Children’s Museum.


In a July 18 letter to the Children’s Museum, Children’s Board executive director Kelley Parris said the board could not proceed with a contract on one museum program because the museum was out of compliance on another. Parris said the museum would need to submit a Provider Improvement Plan and recover missing demographic information about the children served by the Science Action Clubs.

The museum corrected the mistake, Curtin said Thursday, and the grant expired at the end of its term in September.

Stancil could not be reached for comment this week.

A severance agreement mentioned in emails obtained by the Times would pay Stancil six months salary, or $86,750. Negotiations on her severance are ongoing, Curtin said.


Stancil, 48, joined the children’s museum in November 2015 from PBS affiliate WQED in Pittsburgh.

The museum operates on revenues of $3.5 million a year — up from $2.45 million when Stancil arrived, according to its 2017 federal tax filing.

“For the last few years finances have been good,” Curtin said. “We haven’t borrowed any money. We have no debt.”

Asked how the museum’s direction might change under a new leader, Curtin said, “In order to bring the museum to the next level, we need a CEO who can get those community donors … and that is what I want to see — more community involvement.”




Emergency rooms and jails the focus as Hillsborough task force takes on opioid epidemic


By Christopher O’Donnell, Times Staff Writer

Published: October 17, 2018


TAMPA — The opioid addiction epidemic is expected to claim the lives of almost 300 people in Hillsborough County this year.

Those who don’t overdose face an increased risk of addiction to drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

Now, the county’s Opioid Task Force is proposing a $13.7 million fix to tackle the epidemic in Hillsborough, which it says will lower the number of victims and reduce the high cost of treating them.

The plan focuses on two areas where the opioid crisis is acutely felt: emergency rooms, where overdose patients arrive, and jails, where addicted inmates have to detox.

It also proposes an education program, expanded addiction treatments and more support for recovering addicts. It will include efforts to reduce the use of opioid painkillers and more availability of Narcan, an overdose antidote.

The proposed fix is expensive.

Most of the money — around $10 million —would come from the county’s existing half-penny sales tax for indigent healthcare. About $600,000 would come from the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network. Grants will be sought for the balance from federal and state funds earmarked to tackle the crisis.

Commissioner Sandy Murman, who leads the task force, will ask fellow commissioners Wednesday to sign off on the plan, which was developed over nine months. She learned firsthand the grief caused by the epidemic when her sister, Linda Bowers, became addicted to opioids and committed suicide in 2015.

“This has become such a huge problem in Hillsborough County” Murman said. “Nine out of 10 people who need drug treatment are not getting it.”

Addicted inmates would be enrolled in a “step-down unit,” giving them addiction counseling and other social services for up to 30 days after release from jail in an effort to prevent them from offending and using again.

Treatments for inmates could include vivitrol, an alternative to methadone that is injected once a month to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

In emergency rooms, treatment and addiction services will be provided for overdose victims.

There will also be more medical assistance for babies born addicted to drugs. In 2016, Hillsborough reported 579 babies were born addicted — the most among Florida’s 67 counties, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

The prevention part of the plan would push to increase the availability of Narcan, which counters overdoses by quickly removing opioids from the receptors in the brain that regulate breathing. It is already being carried by first responders and some law enforcement agencies.

A standing order issued by the state requires pharmacies to issue the drug to law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. It can also be obtained on request if people want to have it on hand for a family member they consider at risk.

But an analysis by the task force found that not all pharmacies stock the drug and some will only order it on request, said Cindy Grant, executive director of the Hillsborough County Anti-drug Alliance.

Cost is another problem with prices ranging from $16.95 to $260, she said.

“It’s all over the place,” Grant said. “There needs to be some way to track this and let people know where to get it.”

Hillsborough has already taken steps to tackle opioid addiction

In 2010, it enacted an ordinance to eliminate so-called “pill-mills,” clinics that dole out opioids.

It has also launched a jail diversion program for addicts and earlier this year joined the state and about 1,000 communities nationwide that are suing the manufacturers of drugs like OxyContin and Percocet.

But the crackdown has seen users switch to heroin and fentanyl, often illegally manufactured, to feed their addiction, Murman said.

The task force has set targets including a 20 percent reduction in the number of emergency room deaths from overdoses and a 15 percent reduction in the number of people re-arrested on drug charges. Reducing addiction to opioids could reduce medical costs in Hillsborough emergency rooms and clinics by as much as $12 million per year, the task force said.

“We know that for every dollar we spend on treatment,” Murman said, “we will save $7 in criminal costs and $4 in healthcare costs.”



Tampa’s plan to convert wastewater to drinking water stalls after Tampa Bay Water vote

Charlie Frago


Published: October 15, 2018

Updated: October 15, 2018 at 03:49 PM


CLEARWATER  — Tampa’s plan to turn highly treated wastewater into drinking water for the region’s booming population was rejected Monday by a coalition of Pinellas and Pasco politicians who want more time to determine how the plan might affect their communities.

The Tampa Augmentation Project is perhaps the biggest project left on the desk of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn before he leaves office in May.

Buckhorn said after the vote that he’s confident that the project ultimately will be approved and hopes to bring it back for another vote in December.

“The wheels of progress never move quickly, especially when some are throwing sand in the gears,” Buckhorn said.

Tampa officials have said the whole region would benefit from their plan to inject up to 50 million gallons a day of wastewater into the underground water table to provide an added layer of cleansing for wastewater before it is pumped back up into reservoirs and, eventually, faucets and showers.

The highly treated treated wastewater now is dumped into Tampa Bay.

The project, Tampa argues, would help clean up damaging nutrients from Tampa Bay and make available tens of millions of gallons a day for all members of the Tampa Bay Water partnership — the cities of St. Petersburg and New Port Richey, and Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

But the proposal was met with suspicion, especially among the Pinellas partners on the board of the regional water supplier. Ultimately, a majority of Pasco County officials sided with the Pinellas contingent.

The 5-4 vote split along county lines. The three Hillsborough County board members — County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Pat Kemp along with Tampa council member Charlie Miranda — voted for the plan. They were joined by New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe.

Voting against it were Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Dave Eggers, St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice and Pasco County Commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Ron Oakley.

Rice and Eggers said they are troubled by recent discussions between Hillsborough County and Polk County about possibly supplying Polk with water generated from reclamation projects. Polk is not a part of Tampa Bay Water, created 20 years ago as a water wholesaler to put an end to regional “water wars.”

Tampa officials weren’t directly involved in the Polk talks but the discussions still don’t sit well with elected officials from water-poor Pinellas County.

“Tampa Bay Water is highly regarded for solving our own water wars,” Rice said. “It seems like our reward is that that water would go to Polk County.”

Added Eggers, “I think there are a lot of questions. I just want to make sure this agency is protected.

The St. Petersburg City Council last month voted unanimously ito oppose the agreement with Tampa Bay Water, citing concerns that approving it would weaken the water agency and that Tampa’s goals haven’t been transparently disclosed to the other governments.

Buckhorn called Pinellas officials’ focus on the Polk discussions “a Trojan horse,” intended to sink the project.

Miranda, the Tampa council member Miranda, said the benefits to the Tampa proposal are obvious — a cleaner bay and a secure source of drinking water for the next half-century.

“The fears that are there are only fears, not reality,” Miranda said.

Earlier this year, Pinellas and Pasco elected officials headed off an effort by Buckhorn to win approval for the project from the state Legislature.

Rice characterized Tampa’s Tallahassee push as a “Legislative run around.”

Tampa Bay Water should take more time to figure out the long-term consequences of allowing Tampa to proceed with its plans, she said.

“I just don’t see what the rush is,” she said.

Tampa’s reclamation project is scheduled to come online by 2027. The Tampa Bay Water board agreed to keep studying the project.

Miranda said Monday’s vote shouldn’t be seen as a victory or a loss for anyone, but cautioned against more delays for a project that on the drawing board since Tampa Bay Water was created.

“The longer you wait,” he said, “the more expensive things get.”



Glazer Children’s Museum CEO leaves, interim leader named

By Veronica Brezina-Smith  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Oct 3, 2018, 6:46pm

The Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa will have a new top executive.

Jennifer Stancil, the museum’s president and CEO, has left, sources told Tampa Bay Business Journal. The museum’s contact information for its staff no longer lists Stancil, but has COO Kristen Nieves listed as interim CEO.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman confirmed that Stancil’s last day at the museum was Sept. 28. Murman said she couldn’t disclose further details, so the circumstances of her departure are unclear.

The museum has not yet responded to requests for information despite numerous attempts to reach museum executives through its marketing department. A call to Nieves Wednesday has not yet been returned.

Stancil served as president and CEO since 2015, she replaced Al Najjar, who ran the museum for eight years but left in December 2014 to become president and CEO at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia in Charleston. Stancil had previously served as the executive director of education at WQED Multimedia, the PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. She also held positions with the Carnegie Science Center, McWayne Science Center and Exploris, which is now known as the Marbles Children’s Museum.

Attempts to reach Stancil directly for comment are ongoing.

Stancil’s total compensation at the museum was $174,997 and the museum’s revenue was $3,248,666 as of Sept. 20, 2017, according to museum’s most recent form 990, which nonprofits use to report financials to the IRS.

In 2016, the museum had a $3.14 million budget.

The 53,000-square-foot Tampa museum was named as the 2017 Nonprofit of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal — inspiring the “imagination generation” though creative applications of science and math in ways that will appeal to children.

Under Stancil’s leadership, the museum introduced SMALLab, which stands for Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab. Glazer Children’s Museum was the first museum in the world to incorporate this motion capture lab into its space. She also helped revamp the museum’s internal financial system and software.

Today, the museum is home to 170 interactive exhibits and sees 210,000 annual visitors.


Colorado fuel technology firm targets area for $10M facility

MLMC Florida’s move will create 45 jobs in Hillsborough

by: Business Observer Staff


TAMPA — Alternative fuels technology firm MLMC Florida plans to spend $10 million on a new, 103,000-square-foot facility in Plant City.

In a press release, parent company Materials Lifecycle Management Company, based in Parker, Colo., says it will add 45 new jobs as a result of its foray into Florida. The jobs will fulfill various functions including production, maintenance, sales, logistics, control room operation and administration.

“As we were planning our market entry, we were targeting the Midwest and Southeast, but most importantly, we were looking for a community that was business friendly and had the workforce we needed to succeed,” states Jim LaDue, MLMC Florida’s CEO, in the release. “Hillsborough County and Plant City stood out to us, and we’re confident we made the right decision.”

According to the release, MLMC Florida acquires and processes pre-consumer waste materials, such as non-recyclable, coated paper and cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic films, wood materials and other process and packaging materials to manufacture a clean, energy dense fuel product called Enviro-Fuelcubes (EFCs). EFCs can augment or replace traditional fossil fuels like coal in energy intensive industries, offering a more cost-effective, cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuel sources.

“Manufacturing has a long history in Hillsborough County and continues to be an area of focus for us,” states Sandra Murman, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, in the release. “We’re grateful to MLMC Florida for choosing Hillsborough County for their expansion, and the high-wage jobs they’ll bring to our local residents.”



Colorado-based alternative fuel company to hire 45 at new $10 million factory in Plant City

BY Richard Danielson

Published: September 20, 2018

Updated: September 20, 2018 at 11:53 AM


PLANT CITY — Alternative fuel firm MLMC Florida will open a $10 million factory near the Hillsborough-Polk county line and will create 45 new jobs paying an average salary of at least $58,383 a year, officials said Thursday.

Based in Parker, Colo., MLMC looked around the Midwest and Southeast for its new manufacturing facility, but Hillsborough County and Plant City stood out, chief operating officer Jim LaDue said in an announcement released through the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

“Most importantly, we were looking for a community that was business-friendly and had the workforce we needed to succeed,” LaDue said.

The state of Florida, Hillsborough County and Plant City offered a total of $225,000 in incentives — $180,000 from the state and $22,500 each from the city and county — that MLMC will be eligible to receive after it makes its investment and creates the new jobs.

“Thrilled,” Plant City Mayor Rick Lott said. “Advanced manufacturing is what we’re all about, and MLMC’s alternative fuel product is helping us become less dependent on fossil fuels. This is a great project all around.”

MLMC — its full name is Materials Lifecycle Management Co. — turns non-recyclable coated paper and cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic films, wood materials and other process or packaging materials into an energy-dense fuel it calls Enviro-Fuelcubes.

The cubes are engineered to augment or take the place of fossil fuels such as coal. Moreover, the company has developed its own patented fuel injection technology to deliver the cubes into burners at power plants or rotary kilns that make cement and lime.

MLMC will open its new, 103,000-square-foot factory at 2067 S County Line Road. There, an expected 150,000-plus tons of manufacturing process and packaging waste will be pressed into the fuel cubes. The new jobs will be in production, maintenance, sales, logistics, control room operation and administration.

MLMC, whose web address is “notwaste.com,” said the cubes are the first fuel of its kind to receive a non-waste designation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company says it has processed 300,000 tons of materials that otherwise would have gone into landfills or garbage incinerators into 225,000 tons of fuel, displacing 200,000 tons of coal along the way.

EDC officials said MLMC is the latest manufacturer to launch operations in Hillsborough, which has more than 2,800 manufacturing firms employing 63,000 workers, joining LiftupResistacap Energy Products and Advanced Airfoil Components, a joint venture of Siemens and Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corporation.


“Manufacturing has a long history in Hillsborough County,” Hillsborough County Commission chairwoman Sandra Murman said, “and continues to be an area of focus for us.”


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