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The Woman Behind This ER Dedicated to Addiction

Mayor, Palm Beach County, Fla.

Melissa Mckinlay WIG
Palm Beach Mayor Melissa McKinlay
(David Kidd)
Palm Beach County, which is home to some of the nation’s richest individuals and President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club, isn’t the first place you’d associate with the opioid epidemic. But 600 residents have died from overdoses in each of the last two years. Melissa McKinlay, a county commissioner with the honorary title of mayor, pushed through a plan to increase services and establish an emergency room dedicated to addiction. For McKinlay, along with millions of others, the problem is personal: After her chief of staff lost her daughter, McKinlay kicked her effort into high gear.

McKinlay’s been around government her entire career, working as a staffer for a state agency, the county and a U.S. senator. She ran for a commission seat in 2014 and will seek reelection this year. “I took on an internship at the Florida House of Representatives,” she says, “and haven’t stopped since.”

Her other signature issue also stems from personal experience: the county’s paid family leave benefit. McKinlay, a divorced mother of three, knows first-hand how important it is to have time to care for newborns and other family members. “There were a lot of days when I let my child go to day care with Tylenol when I should have stayed home with him,” she says. 

Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.

Natalie previously covered immigrant communities and environmental justice as a bilingual reporter at CityLab and CityLab Latino. She hails from the Los Angeles area and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English literature.
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