BROOKSVILLE — He pulled out a stack of pain pill packets. Then he pulled out a few bottles. He even grabbed a couple of pain pill samples. Soon, the lectern was filled with unused medications.
"My question to my doctor," said Hernando County NAACP president Paul Douglas, "was why did you not check to see what I was on (before prescribing more medications)?"
Recently passed legislation will create a database to keep track of pain medication prescriptions in order to prevent the accumulation of unused pills like Douglas' situation.
On Tuesday, the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition honored state Sen. Mike Fasano for his work in getting the new rules approved.
"With the (prescription drug monitoring program), this doctor will know," said Douglas, adding that the pills had been legally prescribed for various ailments and that he intends to dispose of them soon.
Prescription drug abuse has proliferated in Florida, with a number of deaths being attributed to overdoses and dozens of arrests for possession of pain pills without prescriptions.
Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican, was a leader in trying to get some needed regulation on pain management clinics. The clinics are often known as "pill mills" because they distribute pain medication in high volumes with few restrictions. Hernando County has 16 licensed pain management clinics.
Fasano said he has been working on the legislation since 2001 and celebrated it becoming law earlier this month. He said there is still some opposition to the database in Tallahassee, where the bill faced significant obstacles from special interests and some lawmakers who opposed provisions of the law like the database and a rule banning certain doctors from distributing pills from their practices.
"Until the (database) is up and running in October, we'll be cautiously optimistic," he said.
Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis presented Fasano with the coalition's award, adding that prescription drug abuse is an everyday problem for his agency.
He highlighted the case of a woman who was arrested Monday and accused of lying to deputies in a scheme to get pills. She told deputies that she had been beaten and robbed of her oxycodone pills, but deputies later said she had been trying to recover pills she had sold. When a buyer didn't pay her $200 she wanted, she called deputies.
Fasano said he was optimistic that the new legislation will help stem an epidemic that kills seven Floridians a day.
"In a couple years, we will no longer be known as the pill mill state," he said.
Melvin Backman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.