Deputy county administrator receives Community Visionary Award

Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson (fourth from left) addresses Deputy County Administrator Bill Little (fourth from right) during a June 26 presentation. Robinson is joined by her fellow commissioners and representatives from other agencies involved in the four-county Safe Rx campaign. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

On June 26, Deputy Sarasota County Administrator Bill Little was among a group of people the Sarasota County Commission recognized for the success of a regional program to help reduce prescription drug misuse.

The county had been honored by the National Association of Counties for Safe Rx: Campaign for Responsible Prescriptions.

This week, Little is in the spotlight by himself: He has been named the first recipient of the Community Visionary Award by First Step Sarasota and the Florida School of Addiction Studies.

This latest award “reflects Little’s work to combat prescription drug addiction in his previous role as director of Health and Human Services,” a county news release says.

That effort also was a result of collaboration, this time among Sarasota County government, law enforcement and drug treatment professionals, the news release says.

The recognition cites Little’s work to acquire funding for a Marchman Act receiving facility that has accommodated more than 700 people in a medically supervised detoxification center instead of jail, the news release says.

Little and his staff also obtained Sarasota County funding for a 10-week residential treatment program for homeless people and others who lack insurance or money to pay for treatment, as well as those who aren’t eligible for grant-funded programs, the news release adds.

“The initiative brought together seven behavioral/medical treatment providers to implement and run the program, which has provided assistance for hundreds of clients,” the news release says.

Additionally, Little established a community stakeholders consortium, which is working on future methods of handling behavioral health-care issues in Sarasota County; that initiative led to the creation of the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, the news release notes.

The Florida School of Addiction Studies specializes in training and education about addictions and related problems, the news release points out, while First Step Sarasota provides substance abuse treatment and recovery programs.

The Safe Rx campaign, which was unveiled in January 2011 with 16 partner agencies and organizations from Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties, was developed in response to local statistics indicating Sarasota County was ranked eighth in the state for unintentional poisoning deaths, a county news release notes.

Unintentional poisonings had become the leading cause of death in the 15-34 age group in Sarasota County, statistics showed.

The 16 partners in the Safe Rx Campaign — including health departments and hospitals — implemented educational programs designed to help health care providers promote responsible prescription drug use.

In 2011, Safe Rx educational events were held throughout the region to train more than 500 medical professionals on safe medication-disposal methods and the dangers of over-prescribing, Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson told those attending the June 26 board meeting in Sarasota.

As a result of those efforts, the county news release says, “medical professionals in Sarasota County are voluntarily registering for the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program at the highest rate in the state.”

“The Florida Suncoast Region is ahead of the curve and leading the way,” Robinson said during the NACo award recognition.

“This is a big achievement,” Robinson added.

When Little addressed the audience, he emphasized the importance of collaboration in the effort to combat prescription drug abuse. “This recognition is really about more than just Sarasota County,” he said.

Twelve hospitals and four health departments in the four counties had worked together, he said. “On behalf of all of those, I accept the recognition and hope that we continue to address this problem as we move forward.”