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Florida congressman looks for solutions to the opioid crisis

Congressman Bilirakis attended a Pasco County meeting with business leaders and community members to discuss what they need to do to stop the opioid crisis.

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — A Florida congressman is working to stop the opioid crisis by meeting with community members.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 12th District) held an event at Advent Health Center Ice Arena in Wesley Chapel Wednesday night. Bilirakis talked with community leaders about legislation he is working on to help people struggling with addiction in Tampa bay.

People a part of local nonprofit organizations were there sharing their personal stories about how important this is in saving lives here in our community.

"I was addicted to heroin since I was 15. I spent over 14 years in prison," the Director of peer support for the Hope Shot, Nathan Cantie said.

Cantie is now four years sober and made it his mission to help others as he works with the Hope Shot.

"I’m really passionate about giving people the proper treatment they need, but also what happens to them after they leave treatment, which is the most important transition," Cantie explained. 

The Hope Shot is an organization that helps people who struggle with addiction.

Bilirakis is addressing help the help that is needed here in our area.

"Our kids are dying," Bilirakis said to a room of people. 

A number of organizations and people attended to hear what Congressman Bilirakis is doing. He recently secured $2 million in federal funds for substance use and mental health treatment in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

RELATED: CDC: Drug overdose deaths in the US increased by 30%, driven by fentanyl

He also sponsored an $800,000 project in Pasco to create a one-stop shop for accessing addiction treatment. That recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He has a goal to help local nonprofit organizations like the Hope Shot.

"Getting the funding down to the local community," Bilirakis said. He is looking into grants to help organizations.

For nonprofits like the Hope Shot, the organization’s Founder Justin McPadden said securing funds at the local level is difficult. "If we can get some funding we take a program where we can start reaching people at a larger scale," McPadden said. 

Congressman Bilirakis is working on legislation to get more resources for mental health. "They need access to psychiatrists, psychologists and sometimes residential treatment," Bilirakis said.

Congressman Bilirakis will be in Washington on Friday to discuss new legislation that addresses mental health and addiction. 

If you or a loved one is battling a substance use disorder, below is a list of Tampa Bay area resources.

  • Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Hotline: 211 or 813-964-1964
  • Florida Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 813-234-1234
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)

RELATED: DeSantis announces 'massive expansion' of addiction care network to battle rising opioid deaths

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