TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – South Florida is known as the “pill mill” capital; yet Gov. Rick Scott wants to repeal the state’s yet-to-be-implemented prescription drug tracking law that’s designed to crack down on “pill mills.”
Gov. Scott wants to eliminate a computer system aimed at curbing the illegal sale of prescription drugs at storefront pain clinics, a move that alarmed narcotics investigators, drug-treatment advocates and some lawmakers.
Businesses in Oakland Park say the pill mills and pain clinics have done more than just wreck the reputation of their city. Business owner Norma Dauer said the mills attract crime and destroy neighborhoods.
“I’m mad at the governor,” Dauer said. “Seven to eight people are dying every day from these pills.”
Scott, however, has defended his proposal to eliminate the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the Office of Drug Control. Scott spokesman Brian Hughes said that the electronic monitoring delayed by contract challenges, may not be as effective as advocates claim. The governor also was worried it might infringe on patients’ privacy, he said.
The proposed repeal, though, drew sharp opposition from the Florida Academy of Pain Medicine. The doctors’ group issued a statement saying such a system would be “the single most effective weapon in the battle to shut down Florida’s so-called “pill mills.'”
The repeal also drew the ire of Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti, who has to fight the pill mills that pop up almost every day.
“When I was appointed in 2007, there were four pain clinics; now there are 130,” Lamberti said. “There are more pain clinics than McDonald’s.”
The issue is so important to Lamberti that he helped raise money to get the prescription drug monitoring program implemented.
“Thirty-eight states have it (drug monitoring system) in place,” Lamberti said. “Florida is one of 12 that doesn’t; and that’s the reason why we’re ground zero.”
Lamberti added that if the system was up and running it would help eliminate doctor shopping and going from clinic to clinic to get their fix of pain killers.
Diane Moore, another business owner in Broward county, said the pill mills force her to play traffic enforcer outside her business. Her shop is next door to what investigators call one of the busiest pain clinics in the county.
“They (the users) throw up in my parking lot, one guy they took away in an ambulance,” Moore said. “They do drug deals right here.”
Scott’s spokesperson said that the governor supports tougher criminal and civil penalties as “a more effective way to fight this.”
Lawmakers never provided money for the system, instead directing the governor’s drug control office to raise private contributions. One of the first things Scott did after becoming governor last month was to disband the drug office.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi declined to criticize the repeal proposal by Scott, a fellow Republican.
In a statement she noted her focus is on stronger penalties but added that a properly implemented monitoring system “could be an important additional tool to address prescription drug abuse.”
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