New Fla. Gov. Shutters State Drug Control Office - January 7, 2011

A spokesman for Rick Scott, the Florida governor who took office this month, said the governor was closing down the state's Office of Drug Control, the Miami Herald reported Dec. 22.

Scott campaigned on a promise to cut government waste. Closing the drug control office eliminated four full-time positions. The office's director, Bruce Grant, said the savings would amount to "less than $500,000," according to the Herald.

The office was created by Governor Jeb Bush in 1999. It used regular surveys to track drug and alcohol use among schoolchildren, advised the governor on drug policy, and coordinated the work of state agencies on addiction and substance abuse.

Brian Burgess, a spokesman for the governor, said the office's responsibilities would probably be handed over to the two state departments responsible for health and law enforcement. "I don't think we're going to have cocaine bales stacking up on the docks of Miami if we close this office," he said.

Lora Brown, who sits on a task force charged with setting up a prescription drug monitoring program championed by the Office of Drug Control, disagreed with the governor's decision.

"This issue is not a law issue. It's not a health issue. It's an issue that incorporates all those areas. It's a complex issue and needs an integrated, coordinated solution,'' she said. "I'm very disappointed in the fact that this office has been dissolved. My concern is this issue is not going to get the attention it needs."

Grant argued that closing the office sent the wrong signal. "We've got a heck of a problem in this state with drugs. And it's not going to be over any time soon,'' he said. "What you're saying by getting rid of this office is that's not a priority."