In an encouraging step in the fight to stop Florida’s prescription drug epidemic, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco has received approval from the Pasco Board of County Commissioners to hire 23 new employees, each of whom will be dedicated to fighting prescription drug abuse.

The sheriff will be putting together two teams of detectives to stop prescription drug dealers on the streets, and eight nurses to help inmates going through detox while in jail. The remainder will act as support personnel for the unit.

The decision to beef up the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office comes only a couple weeks after state Sen. Mike Fasano,R-New Port Richey, spoke to the commission about the importance of combating prescription drug abuse in the state.

“On Aug. 30 Sen. Fasano addressed the county commission as they were preparing next year’s budget,” says Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative aide. “In his address to the commission the senator spoke about the importance of implementing Florida’s new laws pertaining to pill mills and the database. He strongly advocated in favor of the sheriff’s proposal. The senator is very pleased that the county commission has approved the sheriff’s budget request.”

Fasano was a staunch defender of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, which recently went live. Both he and Giordano agree that the efficacy of the pdmp (now known as E-FORCSE) is reliant upon the support of local governments, without whom “all the laws in the world are for naught.”

“It is one thing to pass laws in Tallahassee that enshrines in statute major policy changes regarding legal and illegal access and use of prescription medication,” says Giordano. “It is quite another to make sure that those policy shifts are carried out on the front line.”

According to Giordano, one of Fasano’s top priorities for the 2012 legislative session with be to earmark funds for rehabilitation services. “Sen. Fasano also recognizes that as pill mills are being shut down the number of people with drug addictions who will no longer have access to those drugs will be increasing,” says Giordano. “Cutting off the supply of drugs is simply not enough. Helping people learn how to live without the drugs is the only way to ensure that they will not resort to further criminal behavior.”

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