Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando sheriff seeks tougher pain clinic ordinance

BROOKSVILLE — Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the top priority in his new position will be to end the rampant illegal use of prescription drugs in Hernando County.

In the coming weeks, Nienhuis said, he will push for a county ordinance that would place stricter regulations on the area's so-called pill mills.

"The bottom line is we want to make sure those businesses are legitimate," he said of the companies known as pain clinics. "It's a very, very difficult thing for us to deal with," the sheriff told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board Thursday.

In the first half of 2010, Hernando County had 24 deaths caused by prescription drugs — double the statewide average per capita, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

County commissioners discussed a related ordinance last year but declined to enact it after former Gov. Charlie Crist signed a law that would require clinics to go through yearly inspections. But because new Gov. Rick Scott has placed a hold on new legislation, the pill mill regulations have not taken effect.

"The Florida Legislature has taken action on this issue, enacting tough regulations on so-called 'Pain Management Clinics,' the storefront pill mills that traffic in these deadly drugs and make Florida a key link in the illegal distribution of pills across the southeastern United States," state Sens. Mike Fasano and Nan Rich wrote in an op-ed piece to the Times. "Unfortunately, recent actions of some of our colleagues in the Legislature, as well as our new governor, are undermining Florida's efforts to stem the tide of addiction and death caused by these drugs."

As of December, authorities said, Hernando had 16 pain clinics in the application process or registered with the Florida Department of Health. There is no penalty for not registering, however, so more could exist.

Now, without any stopgaps in place, Hernando sheriff's Col. Mike Maurer said, six new pain clinics are poised to open in the county within the next two months.

"We definitely need to do it, and I'll support Sheriff Nienhuis on this," County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins said of the proposed ordinance. "Where the state fails, we have to control it."

With Nienhuis' help, Adkins said he wants an ordinance passed by next month.

The area's pill mills draw people from around the country who come here to buy cheaper drugs in bulk with few questions asked. While an oxycodone pill in more northern states might cost $80, Maurer said, it could cost as little as $12 in Florida.

It's not uncommon for people to buy hundreds of pills at once from the clinics, the sheriff said.

The Brooksville City Council passed an ordinance last year that requires pain clinics to gain permits before they can open in the city, said council member Joe Bernardini.

"It helps protect us from this type of establishment coming in and the people that deal in prescription drugs," Bernardini said. "I wanted to be proactive rather than reactive."

The boom of illegal prescription drug use has even affected the way thieves burglarize homes.

"They go right to the medicine cabinets and right to the prescriptions," Maurer said. "That's just another transformation of criminalistics."

Hernando sheriff seeks tougher pain clinic ordinance 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 17, 2011 2:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.