Synapse spotlight: Top takeaways from investors

By Lauren Coffey  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Jan 24, 2019, 2:23pm EST


Synapse Summit Day Two kicked off with a focus on the driving force behind the innovation that the summit hopes to foster: investment.

Experts and investors from the Tampa Bay area and beyond gathered Thursday morning at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa to discuss not only how entrepreneurs can get ahead in the ecosystem with or without venture capital, but also what should be the focus for Tampa Bay investors.

  • Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County Commissioner, believes this year should be used to continue the momentum that has built in the area in the past few years.

“Our talent is growing, the workforce is growing leaps and bounds,” she said. “Our companies are growing and we need to give assurance to entrepreneurs that we can ensure this momentum. It’s very important to have a sustainable, exciting effort for them. It’s why events are so important to get that word out. This is the year all our hard work pays off with more jobs, more infrastructure and more investment.”

  • Larry Quinlan, global chief information officer for Deloitte, focused less on the importance of money and more on the importance of people.

“I’m at a conference where I should talk about blockchain and AI and all that, but what I have to say is it’s all about people,” he said. “The people who are involved in driving the innovation are just as important — or more — as the innovation. The best people don’t choose to be where the best technology is; they also want to be in an environment where they can grow, they’re trusted, they can speak their minds and fulfill their aspirations.”

  • Steve Barsh, managing partner for Dreamit Ventures, urged entrepreneurs that when it comes to venture capital they should find a way to work around the perceived lack of funds or find a different route entirely.

“Stop blaming local capital because as entrepreneurs, when we see a problem what do we do? We fix it, we go around it,” Barsh said. “Investment lives here; it can live in Tampa. Don’t say, ‘We’ll build a million-dollar company, we just can’t find venture capital.’ I want you to focus on how much you’re raising capital versus selling.”

  • Jake Seid, a tech investor in San Francisco, was part of a four-person panel that discussed a slew of investing.

“Really, this is my first exposure to the Florida tech scene and it’s been eye opening,” Seid said. “I have been investing outside of the Valley and some places like Europe, but the thing I’ve been impressed with is amount of talent coming out of universities. It’s a great place to live and be based. Companies don’t want to be based in the Valley because it’s too expensive. I think here is a great opportunity and Magic Leap moved 400 families; so I think there’s more and more opportunity.”

  • Steve MacDonald, former CEO of myMatrixx and current Florida Funders partner

“Oftentimes, entrepreneurs put a lot of focus in early stage funding and they lose sight of what they’re building and why they’re building it,” MacDonald said. “There’s a big banner of, ‘I raised $10 million, $15 million, $20 million,’ and in the long run a lot of businesses don’t need that much money. More money can create more problems because you’re not looking at the details closely and you have your back against the wall.”





Is Tampa’s toilet-to-tap plan swirling down the drain?

The project, one of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s top priorities, is meeting strong resistance among Pinellas and Pasco officials on the Tampa Bay Water board.

CLEARWATER — Tampa’s controversial plan to convert highly-treated wastewater into drinking water appears to be losing support among representatives from local governments who make up the board of Tampa Bay Water, the regional authority that would have to sign off on the city’s plan.

At a meeting Monday, Pasco County officials, including Commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Ron Oakley, expressed larger concerns about the project than they had previously. The Pinellas delegation, led by St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, already is opposed.

Any agreement between the water authority and Tampa requires the support of a majority of the board’s nine members, three each from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. After another discussion scheduled for next month, the board voted unanimously to take up the so-called “toilet to tap” issue again in February.

Pinellas and Pasco members kept pressing Tampa water officials Monday about why Florida’s third-largest city needs to further develop its own water supply and largely stop purchasing water from the authority. And why it wants to pursue the giant project by itself.

“This thing has been working for 20 years for a lot of people,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers of the authority, formed in 1998 to put an end to the “water wars” of the 1990s. “For the life of me, it just doesn’t make any sense to me in any fashion.”

Eggers — along with Rice, Starkey, Oakley and even Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman — questioned whether their approval would mean higher water rates for their constituents, cause unknown environmental hazards or possibly unravel the agency itself, leading to a return to a scramble for water supplies by governments across the region.

Tampa officials said its toilet-to-tap plan would only bolster the region’s water resources by allowing Tampa to be virtually self-sufficient in water, freeing up water for needier Pinellas and Pasco counties.

They said eliminating the minimal nutrients the water currently discharges into the bay from its Howard F. Curren sewage plant, which first treats the sewage to a much-cleaner level than St. Petersburg, would help the environment.

And they said that extra water would keep Tampa Bay Water from having to build expensive new infrastructure to supply the three-county region’s water needs, saving nearly $35 million.

On Monday, board members discussed the project for nearly four hours before voting to amend the proposed agreement to include written promises from Tampa officials that they wouldn’t sell up to 50 million gallons a day of what was once sewage to other users or to claim environmental credits that could allow polluters to cancel out the touted environmental benefits of the conversion.

Tampa plans to end its legal discharge of its highly-treated wastewater into Tampa Bay, pump the wastewater deep into the aquifer to further purify it, then release it into the city’s Hillsborough River reservoir near the city’s water plant.

Other than to rebut arguments that Tampa wanted to saddle the authority with debt and, perhaps, mingle its converted wastewater with supplies destined for Pinellas, Tampa officials appeared resigned to fight another day.

In contrast to previous meetings, Starkey raised several objections to the project, including that it might cut into funding for the other governments’ water infrastructure needs by soaking up cash from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which said it plans to fund at least half the estimated $350 million project, expected to be ready in 2027.

“My intent would be that we keep Tampa Bay Water as strong as possible,” Starkey said. “I don’t think anyone wants us to chip away at what those who put this organization together intended it.”


HCC SouthShore Celebrates 10 Years

By Kate Quesada      January 14, 2019

Residents are invited to join members of the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) SouthShore Campus to celebrate its 10 year anniversary and the 50th anniversary of HCC in Hillsborough County on January 30.

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) SouthShore campus has a lot to celebrate this month. Campus leaders are inviting students, alumni and community members to attend an anniversary celebration recognizing the 50th anniversary of HCC in Hillsborough County and 10 years since the SouthShore campus opened in Ruskin.

The event, a Celebration by the Shore, will take place on Wednesday, January 30 at 2 p.m. and will include entertainment, featuring music from the Lennard High School marching band, food and refreshments, presentations and tours of the campus.

“We want this to be a huge party,” said Campus President Dr. Jennifer China, who has secured sponsors from throughout the community to help with the event. “Our goal is to have everyone come together to celebrate and learn more about each other. We are so happy to be able to put this together for the community.”

China will also recognize and present five awards to members of the community who have made an impact at the college over the last decade.

The SouthShore Trailblazer Award will be presented to the Dickman family, who gave the college the property on which the SouthShore Campus is built. The SouthShore People Award will go to County Commissioner Sandra Murman; the SouthShore Community Award will be presented to Georgia Vahue of the Firehouse Cultural Center, an important partner with the college, the SouthShore Leadership Award will go to Dr. Allen Witt, who preceded China as campus president, and the SouthShore Partnership Award will be received by Elizabeth Gutierrez with Enterprising Latinas.

“We are excited to have this opportunity to recognize some of the people who have helped the college, and specifically our campus, get to where it is today,” said China.

Another exciting part of the celebration is a time capsule China and her team are putting together with items from 2019 to be opened at a future date.

“We are hoping to recognize the future of the college as well as the past,” she said.

Sponsors for the event include Mosaic, Suncoast Federal Credit Union and South Bay Hospital.

The celebration event will take place on Wednesday, January 30 starting at 2 p.m. HCC SouthShore is located at 551 24th St. N.E. in Ruskin and can be reached at 259-6128. For more information, visit




Hooper: Some worthy recognitions among the holiday leftovers

The Pepin Family and a trio of pioneering women among those recently honored.

By Ernest Hooper

Published Yesterday

Updated Yesterday

I found more than Honey Baked Ham and my daughter’s corn casserole among the holiday leftovers. Let’s empty the refrigerator, I mean notebook, with these laudatory items.

Kudos to the late Art and Polly Pepin. You may not realize it, but now when you take Tampa’s 50th Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Harney Road near where it becomes 56th Street, you’re riding on “Pepin Family Highway.” The former Tampa philanthropists, business and community leaders, along with son Tom Pepin and the Pepin family, were honored with a road designation ceremony last month at Pepin Distributing, which sits at the corner of 56th Street and MLK.

Janet Cruz, while serving as a state representative, helped push the legislation through for the state road. Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman led the way on the board with a corresponding local measure. …

Kudos to Mise en Place proprietor Maryann Ferenc, ground breaking Tampa attorney Carolyn House Stewart and civic leader Joanna Tokely. The three women will be inducted into the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame on April 26, 2019.

For sponsorship information, email …

Kudos to all the people who endured the throng at the Dillard’s Brandon New Year’s Day sale. I had never seen hundreds of people line up early, dart around clothing racks and jam the escalator for prices slashed from 50 to 75 percent.

Two guys declared themselves members of the “Good Husband Club,” but my favorite was the gentleman who repeatedly called out to his wife while holding three bras high above his head.

“Honey, I got ‘em. I got ‘em.”

I know she saw him, but she looked the other way and kept shopping. Good times.

That’s all I’m saying.




Uncertainty over lawsuit puts Hillsborough’s transportation plans on ice

County leaders are reluctant to go ahead with transportation projects until a lawsuit disputing the recent sales tax vote is resolved.

By Caitlin Johnston    Published Yesterday

TAMPA — A voter-approved plan to remake Hillsborough County’s transportation systems with millions in new sales tax revenue has been mired in uncertainty and effectively halted by a lawsuit challenging the tax.

While the court weighs the case, local government leaders have shown a reticence to spend revenue that the state started collecting on Jan. 1. No injunctions have been ordered, but the fear that a judge could overturn the tax has provided enough doubt to stymie some plans.

The lawsuit, filed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, asks a judge to determine whether the charter amendment voters approved in November violates state law. With a resolution possibly months away, officials are taking a pause.

Hillsborough’s transit agency, for example, had the opportunity to jump a two-year wait and buy eight electric buses that would arrive in December. But the agency says it won’t have the $10 million needed to buy the buses until an expected $130 million comes in this year from the tax. So transit board member and County Commissioner Pat Kemp asked her fellow commissioners Wednesday to approve the county stepping up to pay for the buses if necessary.

Fellow commissioners praised the idea of putting more buses, especially an environmentally friendly option, on the street. “Obviously, no one’s against electric buses,” commissioner Sandy Murman said.

But uneasiness over the lawsuit gave the board pause, even for an idea that seemed to have broad support.

“All that sounds great,” commissioner Ken Hagan said of the buses. “Do we have any financial risk with this item?”

The uncertainty is expected to linger for at least a couple more months. A summary judgment hearing is scheduled for May, though the case could be resolved by then. If not, a judge likely won’t issue a ruling until June.

White repeatedly has said the lawsuit is not a political move and added Thursday that he had no intent to halt decision-making. He said his goal is to ensure the county charter is legally in line Florida law.

While resolving that question is taking longer than he had hoped, White said the time invested is worth it to settle concerns. Considering the large scope of transportation issues that Hillsborough leaders have struggled with for decades, half a year “is not going to be a big difference-maker,” he said.

“If it takes six months to determine whether or not this charter amendment meets the letter of the law, to me, that’s well worth it and time well-spent,” White said.

But that wait is tying up projects that otherwise would move forward. Jeff Seward, interim CEO of the county’s bus agency, said the lawsuit caused him to withdraw a recommendation to buy 30 buses that would improve service for about 1.5 million riders.

The buses would have allowed the agency to increase frequency on six routes around the county, allowing buses to run every 15 minutes instead of on the half hour.

“I was ready to pull the trigger on those 30 buses and was actually pretty excited about it because we’ve never ordered that many buses at one time ever,” Seward said. “(The lawsuit) has absolutely slowed our ability to do anything service-wise to a complete standstill.”

While he does not think the lawsuit will overturn the tax, it could alter when agencies receive the money. And Seward said he doesn’t want to order the new buses without the money in hand.

“It could be six months, it could be however long,” he said. “I’m just not willing to take that risk.”

Stetson University College of Law professor Charles Rose called it an uncommon set of circumstances, when a commissioner is suing about the constitutionality of a county charter.

White’s lawsuit shouldn’t stop the collection of the tax, Rose said, but each entity that would receive a portion of the money has to assess whether it can safely budget for the revenue.

Rose said if he was legal counsel for the county or another agency, he would advise leaders to make their decisions assuming the money won’t come through. Spending it at the end of the year is more fiscally responsible than having to return it, he said.

The “very fiscally conservative” approach would be different if the case involved private individuals who don’t have a responsibility to anyone other than themselves, Rose said. Those individuals would be bound only by an injunction or a legal requirement.

But it’s different for a government agency that answers to taxpayers.

“It really is about uncertainty,” said Christina Barker, spokeswoman for All For Transportation, the group that put the sales tax on the ballot. “I really do believe if this (lawsuit) wasn’t there, they would have moved forward with things. They have shown they are ready to get stuff done.”





Hillsborough commission pulls out of MacDill ferry plans, citing new transit sales tax hike


By Christopher O’Donnell, Times Staff Writer


Published: November 8, 2018

Updated: November 8, 2018 at 05:24 PM


TAMPA — Just two days after Hillsborough voters approved a transportation sales tax, the County Commission has dealt a potentially fatal blow to plans for a MacDill Air Force Base passenger ferry service that have been in the works for five years.

The commission voted 6-1 Thursday to cancel its public-private partnership with ferry company HMS Global Maritime and the South Swell development group after learning that the costs of docks, boats and parking at a south county terminal may be as much as $30 million.

With the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority in line to get an extra $124 million per year from the sales tax, commissioners said it makes more sense for the county’s bus agency to pick up the tab.

“To continue this project would be throwing good money after bad,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan. “This is a transit project. If it proceeds it should be under the purview of HART.”

But there is no guarantee that HART will pick up the project. Its 14-member governing board includes three of the commissioners who pulled the plug on the county ferry: Les Miller, Stacy White and Sandy Murman.

The U-turn came during the commission’s final full meeting before two newly elected Democratic commissioners are sworn in later this month, ending a 14-year GOP majority on the board.

Ed Turanchik, a Tampa mayoral candidate and attorney for HMS, scrambled to get to the meeting after hearing of the vote. He urged commissioners to change their mind.

“This is an official partnership that, without notice, you just terminated,” he said. “You’re in the middle of a project that is widely popular, that can do a great amount of benefit.”

Commissioners did not respond to him. After the meeting, he said the decision was a political one.

“A lame duck board did it without notice to anybody including their private partners,” Turanchik said. “This is as bad as government can be.”

First proposed in 2013, the ferry was intended to provide a low-cost, fast and congestion-proof commuter service for about 8,000 MacDill Air Force Base employees who live in south county.

But concerns about the environmental impact of a terminal and where to build it led to years of delays and setbacks.

In 2017, the project got a major boost when the county set aside $22 million from BP settlement money to pay for docks, boats and other costs.

And as recently as Sept. 20, commissioners unanimously approved giving another $774,000 to HMS and South Swell toward a site study and ridership projection report it was required to produce by January.

A report from an AECOM consultant on Wednesday proved the last straw for the ferry service. In addition to the extra cost, the county would likely have to buy land for a south county terminal, commissioners learned.

The most likely site, the Fred and Idah Shultz Nature Preserve, is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The agency has indicated it would expect a land swap and a purchase agreement.

And earlier this year, the project lost out on a $4.7 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority because it could not meet a construction deadline.

Miller, the only Democrat to vote for scrapping the project, said he is still waiting for a ridership study that would show how many cars the ferry would take off the road and proof that the Department of Defense will allow a ferry at a military base.

“Five years we’ve been working on this project,” he said. “My questions have not been answered.”

Hillsborough’s decision does not affect the six-month ferry service linking the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa that resumed Nov. 1.

But it does raise concerns whether Tampa Bay will graduate to anything beyond a winter-only service aimed at daytrippers. The MacDill service was slated to include commuter service to Tampa and St. Petersburg.


Sidewalks coming to ‘dangerous’ Gibsonton area after local mom documents daughter’s route to school


Posted: 4:46 AM, Jan 09, 2019


Updated: 6:16 PM, Jan 09, 2019

By: Jillian Ramos

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A local mother who documented her daughter’s route to school with no sidewalks will see changes in the next month.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners formally approved a plan to add sidewalks to areas around Eisenhower Middle School and East Bay High School.

In December, we first told you how Vanessa Harmon used the power of a video on social media to document what she calls unsafe walking conditions to school. Harmon’s daughter walks along the shoulder of the road along Covington Garden Drive to get to Big Bend Road.

RELATED: East Bay H.S. mother posts video about students walking unsafe streets

Commissioner Sandra Murman tells ABC Action News the project is already funded, and brought the agenda item forward on Wednesday.

“We have 11 to 18 years old crossing Big Bend Road,” she said.

The county has plans to add sidewalks along Covington Garden Drive and complete broken sidewalks in front of the two schools. Leaders also said they are adding delineators.

Trujillo, Dan

Murman said she appreciates Harmon advocating for the area. “I just have to recognize one of the advocates,” she said, “she’s been steadfast, and she’s not critical, she just wants something done.”

Harmon said she’s thankful for the expedited process, “I appreciate the fast track of the sidewalks, I think its amazing they’ve sped things up.”

However, Harmon wants leaders to consider fixing the path to the schools by adding a pedestrian overpass over Big Bend Road.

County leaders said that’s not possible at Covington Garden Drive; however, they added it could be possible down the road.

ABC Action News learned that the county has applied for a grant to try to build an overpass over Big Bend Road at the South Coast Greenway Trail.

Harmon also worries about her daughter’s courtesy busing being removed since she’s within two miles of the school.

We reached out to the district about the removal of courtesy busing and received a statement:

Two years ago, the School Board had to make the difficult decision to remove an unfunded program. The district only receives funding from the state to transport students who live more than 2 miles from school and for elementary students who live within 2 miles where their route has been certified unsafe by the county, law enforcement and the district. The 2-mile policy is a state rule that all districts across Florida follow. By law, the district can only fund safety features on our property which we have done. We are always looking for ways to collaborate with the county to assure we are providing the necessary safety on district property while the county works on infrastructure and safety outside of district property.

County transportation leaders say they plan to start the construction in the next 30 days


Commissioner sounds alarm on meager Hillsborough developer fees, unchanged since 1987


By Christopher O’Donnell, Times Staff Writer

Published: October 18, 2018


TAMPA — If a developer wants to tear up more than 100 acres in Manatee County, it costs $20,000 to submit an application.

In Pasco County, the fee is $7,000 and it’s $17,500 in Broward County.

But Hillsborough County would only charge the developer $1,000, a fee unchanged since 1987.

The fees are levied when developers want to build on land in a way that doesn’t meet current guidelines. It is supposed to cover the cost of certified county planners reviewing the proposal.

But Hillsborough’s fees are set so “appallingly low” that taxpayers have been effectively subsidizing developers for decades, Commissioner Pat Kemp said Wednesday.

That conclusion is backed by a consultant’s report that estimates the county is losing $3,000 on every application, based on the cost of staff hours. The county has handled 47 applications this year.

Even if the county had just raised fees based on inflation, it would at least be collecting an extra $1,300 per application, the report shows. But the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission, which paid $24,700 for the 2016 study, has yet to issue any recommendations for fee hikes.

Pinellas County also charges less than some of its neighbors, the report shows, with a maximum fee of just $3,240 for projects of 15 acres or more.

Kemp on Wednesday called for fellow commissioners to take action and raise the fees to at least cover the cost of staff time.

“These have not been raised since the Berlin Wall was standing,” Kemp said. “If this is how long the process takes, maybe we’ll be another decade before we do something.”

Kemp, however, found little support from other commissioners who said that if fees do need to be raised, it should be done as part of next year’s budget with feedback from developers and the public.

“We need to bring this back at another time where we can spend and devote the time on it,” said commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman. “This affects a lot of people.”

There also was concern that higher fees would dampen the county’s booming real estate industry.

“At the end of the day, whatever fees we charge are going to be passed onto the home buyer,” Commissioner Victor Crist said. “Right now, we’re enjoying high sales volumes. That’s important in keeping the workforce moving forward.”

Commissioners voted to consider fees as part of an evaluation into whether there is duplication between the county’s development services department and the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission. The latter handles requests from developers for projects that require rezoning or a change to the county’s comprehensive plan.

That includes applications for land in Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, for which the fee is also $1,000. Those fees are typically set by the municipalities based on recommendations from the planning commission.

The analysis is not simple. The impact on neighboring properties, the area’s water and sewer systems, schools and law enforcement resources must be considered. Some applications must also be reviewed by the county’s Environmental Protection Commission and possibly Tampa International Airport.

Those that could impact Port Tampa Bay also get extra scrutiny, for which a $150 port fee is charged. Consultants said that does not come close to covering the cost of additional staff time, which they estimated at about $1,500.

Planning Commission Executive Director Melissa Zornitta said that user fees are not always based on the cost of processing applications.

Since the consultant’s report was completed in December 2016, the planning commission has been working on implementing recommendations from a University of South Florida efficiency study.

“If we’re going to look at fees, we need to make sure our processes are the best we can be,” Zornitta said.


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.”


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