Prescription drug abuse and the continuing threat caused by pill mills continue to be a top priority of mine.
With an average of six to seven people dying every day due to a causal connection with prescription drugs, it became obvious that something needed to be done to shut off the flow of drugs at the source.
Florida was once the destination of choice for out-of-state drug seekers. However, new laws my Senate office worked on are tightening the vise on pill mills and those who operate them. My hope is that one day soon, illegal pill mills will be put out of business in Florida, leaving behind only legitimate pain management clinics who serve those who truly are in need of medical care.
A new law, which took effect Oct. 1, makes it very difficult for unregistered pain clinics to operate. However, at least one unscrupulous individual has found a loophole in existing law.
As publicized in the St. Petersburg Times, a felon run out of Hillsborough County for running an unlicensed pain clinic recently moved to Pasco County and has opened up a cash-only urgent care clinic, the Wesley Chapel Medical Group. Because the operator does not accept third-party payments (i.e. Medicaid, private insurance) current law does not require the clinic to be registered. My staff and I plan to work on closing that loophole.
It is doubtful this business practice is limited to one community. I have no doubt my colleagues across Florida would not want people running unlicensed clinics in their respective communities.
During the 2011 session of the Florida Legislature, my Senate office has set its sights on making the acquisition of prescription drugs by abusers and dealers even more difficult. I will continue to strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which was authorized in 2009 through legislation my Senate office worked on. The monitoring program is expected to go online in early 2011 and will provide pharmacists and doctors with a tool to identify doctor shoppers and others who may be abusing prescription medications. Pharmacists are tasked with using the program and reporting trends they may see (i.e. those who doctor shop or present fraudulent prescriptions). I will be sponsoring provisions that will help elevate the effort to national standards, which in turn will help the monitoring program's fundraising arm to apply for grants for which it now is not qualified.
Working in concert with the Florida Office of Drug Control, I will be sponsoring additional legislation that strengthens public safety in many ways. Conforming state drug schedules to federal drug schedules will assist law enforcement as new drugs (synthetic marijuana for example) become readily available to the public. The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council will be given a greater role in recommending to the Florida Legislature drug schedule changes as this group is uniquely qualified to identify the prevalence of emergent drugs. Additionally, this legislation will make doctor shopping more difficult. Overall, the goal of my 2011 public safety legislation will be to save lives by decreasing prescription drug abuse and diversion.
I applaud local media for keeping the spotlight on pill mills as well as making the public aware of the need for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Florida has come a long way in the last couple of years but we still have far to go. My staff and I look forward to the 2011 legislative session and the opportunities it holds for the chance to make Florida even safer.
Short of putting up signs at the border stating "Drug Abusers Stay Out," my Senate office believes that we will be successful in making Florida safer for our families and tourists, but not pill mill operators and the people who patronize them.
Sen. Mike Fasano represents District 11 which includes portions of Pasco and Hernando counties.