Methamphetamine or “meth” is rapidly becoming a high-level threat to our families, our communities and those on the front line – our law enforcement, fire personnel and first responders.
I had the opportunity to learn about meth’s powerful addiction and destruction from Jeana Prescott, a young woman from Caryville who used meth for six years and was arrested three times before turning her life around. Off of meth for more than two years, Jeana now serves as a counselor at a faith-based treatment center for meth addicts in her hometown.
Jeana is not the drug’s only victim.
Sheriff Dennis Lee from Holmes County recently shared a story about a 9-month old infant breastfeeding from his mother who was high on meth at the time of her arrest. The infant spent three days awake and screaming while withdrawing from the drug. According to Sheriff Lee, at least half of the children found at raided meth labs have the drug in their systems.
But the horrific damage does not end there.
State arson investigator Robert Johnson and Deputy Sheriff Pete Spurlock from Columbia County recently shared their experiences at a meth lab bust where both were exposed to red phosphorous fumes – poisonous to humans and lethal at concentrated levels. Both were hospitalized from the fumes and say they felt the effects for months after.
The number of meth lab seizures has skyrocketed more than 1,100 percent in four years, leaving our law enforcement and first responders vulnerable to serious injury or death.
As State Fire Marshal, I have a responsibility to take action and to protect our communities and first responders. Today I announced a package of proposals designed to build more teamwork among agencies dealing with meth, toughen penalties for those who manufacture the drug, provide resources to restore users and victims, and better protect children exposed to meth.
We need to rapidly expand our response and combat this evil drug before it spreads.
To learn more, visit our website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fightmeth.
Night falls over the 1908 Lafayette County courthouse in Mayo, the county seat. The two-story frame building across the street was an earlier courthouse. The county was formed in 1856 and named after the French marquis who assisted the colonies during the Revolutionary War.
GALLAGHER CALLS FOR EXPANDED RESPONSE TO FIGHT FLORIDA’S MOST DANGEROUS DRUG
Florida’s State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher announced an expanded, comprehensive strategy to combat methamphetamine or “meth,” including a call for increased coordination between state agencies, the creation of a Meth Strike Force, increased criminal penalties for meth producers, and the establishment of trust funds to clean up meth lab sites and help meth victims, including children. Joining Gallagher in support of expanded efforts was Director James McDonough, Florida Office of Drug Control.
GALLAGHER CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF STATE FARM’S RATE REQUEST
Citing concern that insurance companies are using the 2004 hurricanes to unfairly raise rates, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher called for an independent review of a rate increase on homeowners being sought by State Farm of Florida, the state’s largest insurer. The independent review, the third review since June 1, will be carried out through Gallagher’s Consumer Advocate’s Office.
GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES ARRESTS OF 10 IN STAGED CRASH RING
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced the arrests of 10 people in a staged accident ring that involved 15 different medical clinics fraudulently billing auto insurers more than a million dollars for non-existent injuries. The arrests are part of an ongoing crackdown by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, to fight Personal Injury Protection insurance fraud, also known as PIP fraud.
Those arrested today are facing a range of felony charges from grand theft to organized fraud. Some of the suspects already have extensive criminal records. The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted in the three-month investigation, and Miami-Dade Police Robbery Intervention Detail units assisted with the arrests.
“It appears the potential for profits has lured the underbelly of the criminal world into the PIP fraud arena,” said CFO Gallagher, who oversees the department. “I am proud of the work of our investigators to bring these people to justice, and we'll continue to aggressively pursue scam artists who set up these schemes."