Drug abuse prevention program about to run out of funds - FOX 13 News

Drug abuse prevention program about to run out of funds

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

For years, we've been telling you about the destructive nature of pain pill addiction. On Wednesday, a young man spoke in Tampa who knows first-hand about the deadly consequences of these drugs.

He lost his older brother to an overdose of pain pills.

Spencer Phillips died at age 14. His story lives on through his family, who are trying to change things in Florida.

It was a difficult story for Jamie Phillips to tell, but it was much more difficult for him to live through the loss. The Bloomingdale High School sophomore stood before strangers, telling the story of how his brother Spencer died.

"He was 14 years old, played football for the Westchase Colts," Jamie said.

Spencer was found alone, lifeless from an overdose.

"Prescription drugs were found in his body," Jamie said.

Now the family works with a program called NOPE. It stand for Narcotics Overdose Prevention Education, and it's dedicated to preventing prescription drug abuse.

"So that one kid doesn't have to be buried, and that one family or one little brother doesn't have to wonder everyday what happened to his big brother.  That's really our goal," Michelle Phillips said.

Prescription drug abuse is responsible for two to five deaths a week in Hillsborough County, a ratio found in many other parts of Florida.  It gives our state a reputation.

"As the place to come to get your narcotics," says Mary Lynn Ulrey.

It's a reason advocates support the prescription drug monitoring program.

"It's very core to fighting this epidemic in Hillsborough County and the state of Florida," Phillips said.

A lack of funding could shut down the database.  The program has just $140,000 left, and in January -- a little over three months from now -- it's over, without more money.

Governor Scott was against the program when he took office and vowed that no tax dollars would be used, and no pharmaceutical companies are allowed to help fund it.

So with no steady financial backing, its future is at risk. So is the weapon law enforcement has credited with slowing down pill abuse here, and beyond.

"People are doing running of the drugs up the pill mill highway now.  Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.  So it's not just Florida," Phillips said.

So far private donations, drug forfeiture money and a federal grant have covered the cost of running the prescription database, not the state. There's no steady funding source to pay the $500,000 cost.

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