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Brooksville wants to strictly regulate pain clinics

BROOKSVILLE — So far, there are none of the so-called "pill mill'' pain clinics setting up shop on Brooksville. And City Council wants to keep it that way.

Council members on Monday approved a draft ordinance that would set strict guidelines for owners of such clinics wishing to open in the city.

The proposed ordinance, which was approved last week by planning and zoning commissioners, calls for operators of such clinics to register with the state Department of Health before they can get a permit from the city.

The ordinance places other restrictions, including prohibiting clinics from locating closer than one-half mile from each another. In addition, clinic operators may not hire felons or allow clients to gather in groups outside their location.

Council members voted last year to impose a moratorium on what are typically referred to as "pill mills" as a stop-gap move to keep them from locating in the city. The ordinance would enforce that desire.

The problem of pain clinics has become an epidemic in the United States, law enforcement officials say, with Florida considered by many to be the epicenter of the crisis.

Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis has said that his top priority is to end the rampant illegal use of prescription drugs in Hernando County.

Nienhuis said he will push for a county ordinance that would place stricter regulations on the area's pill mills.

Authorities have linked such clinics and the proliferation of prescription drugs to numerous fatal overdoses. Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics show that Hernando County had 24 confirmed deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the first half of 2010.

Statewide, prescription drug overdoses kill seven people a day, according to the FDLE.

Pain clinics and independent pharmacies that honor questionable prescriptions has been of rising concern in Hernando County in recent years.

In March, a nine-month investigation focusing on Glory Pharmacy in Spring Hill culminated in 53 arrests, including dozens of suspects accused of passing fraudulent prescriptions. In addition, Glory's two owners were charged with trafficking in oxycodone.

A pharmacist faces charges of unlawful dispensing of a controlled substance.

Currently, two bills are being considered by the Legislature that would address the proliferation of pain clinics, which often attract out-of-state customers looking to get easy prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone and methadone with few questioned asked.

A Senate bill, proposed by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would increase penalties for pill mill operators. A House bill, proposed by state Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, focuses on tougher restrictions on physicians who prescribe narcotics.

Brooksville Council member Joe Bernardini said he hoped that the city's tough restrictions would send a message to would-be clinic operators.

"We don't want them here at all," Bernardini said.

The ordinance will receive a second hearing at the May 16 city council meeting.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Brooksville wants to strictly regulate pain clinics 04/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:03pm]
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