NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners gave initial approval Tuesday to an ordinance that would require local pain management clinics to register themselves and would block new ones from opening for up to a year.
Pasco's ordinance, which comes up for a final vote on July 13, would require the estimated 35 local clinics to register with the county within 30 days. After that period, a one-year moratorium on new clinics would go into place.
Neighboring counties have adopted similar measures with the hope of cracking down on the so-called pill mills that attract addicts and dealers, including those from other states.
The flurry of local ordinances is intended to supplement a new state law that goes into effect later this year, which will put another layer of registration requirements on the clinics and give local law enforcement agencies more authority to investigate alleged abuses.
Applicants would have to pay a $2,500 filing fee and show they have registered with the state Department of Health. Clinics would have to post their county permits; those that operate without one could face daily fines up to $500.
The ordinance cites the "threat of illegal narcotic activity and increased crime," which could "undermine the economic health of the county's development and redevelopment efforts."
New regulations passed in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were also cited, which could make Pasco "a target for the location of pain management clinics."
Local governments can't outlaw the clinics. But they can regulate such things as location, operational hours and parking through land use codes.
County officials says they plan to use the moratorium to get a better handle on whether Pasco needs such land use regulations.
Elizabeth Blair, senior assistant county attorney, told commissioners that law enforcement authorities could use the registration data to help determine whether a clinic is legitimate.
But the county's regulations would not do much to clinics that are breaking the law. County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said it is up to state and federal authorities to investigate whether a clinic may be a fraudulent business.
"There's only so much this board can do," he said.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.