Former President Bill Clinton visited Jacksonville on Tuesday, going to Orange Park Medical Center to learn more about efforts to fight opioid abuse and visiting the University of North Florida to hear about the school’s efforts to re-use food scraps.
In 2013, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, a program within the Clinton Foundation, designated Northeast Florida’s five-county area a “community transformation region.” Since then, the organization put together a document outlining the actions needed to improve residents’ health.
Clinton’s latest visit checked in on the effort’s progress. The first part of his trip focused on efforts to fight drug addiction.
He met with representatives from the Azalea Project, a local nonprofit that helps pregnant women who have addictions. He also met two women who relied on the program. The nonprofit is a community partner of the former president’s health initiative.
Clinton talked to pharmacists at the Orange Park hospital about the need for a national database that monitors prescriptions and how the hospital’s own system helps prevent overprescriptions of painkillers.
He told representatives of Northeast Florida Drug Task Force that the response to the opioid epidemic, the deadliest drug crisis in modern American history, is the first time the country has treated drug addiction as a public health crisis. The former president said this despite the fact that Florida has cut treatment dollars and expanded criminal laws to more harshly treat people who sell fentanyl.
Photos: Former President Bill Clinton visits Jacksonville
Bob Peryam, a former sheriff and a member of the task force, re-iterated this, telling Clinton that drug dealers don’t need rehabilitation, just prison time. Treatment, he told the former president, should only be reserved for addicts who don’t sell drugs.
Clinton then shifted focus to the topic of nutrition and hunger, touring the University of North Florida’s new Center for Nutrition and Food Security. Students at the university repackage unused food and send it to Northeast Florida AIDS Network and the Sulzbacher Center.