Pinellas County, FLORIDA- Prescription Drug Addiction- Town Hall Meeting

PINELLAS COUNTY — People gathered Tuesday night for a town hall meeting to talk about a growing problem in our community: prescription drug addiction.

It was part of A&E’s award-winning series “Intervention.”

A&E says it decided to highlight the impact of prescription drug addiction because of the sheer number of cases in Florida, which are among the highest in the country.

Interventionist Jeff Vanvonderen was joined by local panelists representing the court system, healthcare and state government.

“Florida is the worst, but see Florida kind of woke up and now they’re doing legislation,” VanVonderen said.

In the audience was a mix of people, including recovering addict Sabra Larson who was eager to share her story.

“I hit rock bottom literally,” Larson said. “I didn’t discriminate. I used any drug that was available.”

The goal of the town hall meeting was to discuss the problem openly and shoot down some misconceptions.

Experts are giving kudos to our community for its use of drug courts. They say it gives people an alternative to get treatment or counseling.

Larson credits drug court for helping to turn her life around.

Pinellas County Court Judge Dee Anna Farnell says that’s something she hears every day.

“Drug courts save lives,” Farnell said. “Rather than incarcerating addicts we are actually giving them an opportunity to recover.”

The experts told audience members to focus on three things: education, prevention and intervention.

Larson says thanks to authorities stepping in she’s been clean and sober since 2008.

The town hall meeting was co-sponsored by Bay News 9, our parent company Bright House Networks, Westcare and A&E.

The program aired on the St. Petersburg Public Access channel. It will re-air on Bay News 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.

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