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A Times Editorial

Scott's needless, wasteful drug screen plans

In opposing the establishment of a desperately needed statewide prescription drug database that would reduce crime and save lives, Gov. Rick Scott has cited misguided, ill-informed and unfounded privacy concerns for patient confidentiality. Yet the governor has no problem calling for mandatory drug tests and random drug screens for as many as 100,000 innocent state workers while invading their privacy at a cost of millions of dollars. The lack of intellectual honesty here is remarkable.

Scott's intrusion into the private lives of dedicated state employees with no evidence they are illegally using drugs is wrong, ill conceived and likely unconstitutional. But that didn't stop the governor from issuing an executive order last week requiring all new hires in agencies he controls to be drug tested — and for current employees to be tested at least four times a year. State agencies already can require employees to be tested when they are suspected of using illegal drugs, so there is no safety issue here.

The governor's fuzzy reasoning is inexplicable. Florida has become a laughingstock for its dubious reputation as the "pill mill" capital of the nation, with more than 2,000 lives lost every year through the illegal dispensation of prescription drugs such as oxycodone and Xanax. A prescription drug database, paid for by the drug companies themselves, would go a long way toward addressing the problem by making it more difficult for patients to doctor shop for their drugs. It also would make it easier to crack down on unscrupulous physicians who prescribe the drugs without regard to their medical need. But Scott remains opposed to this lifesaving program.

Yet the governor would impose pointless and invasive scrutiny on state employees, requiring workers to submit to random drug screenings without any evidence that drug abuse is rampant among the state work force. The cost to the state for the $35 random screening tests for current workers, a practice that a federal court ruled in 2004 was unconstitutional, will run into the millions of dollars while Scott calls for spending cuts in areas such as education.

Scott is ignoring his responsibility to address a pervasive and deadly drug epidemic — and now ordering a constitutionally suspect approach to tackle a drug problem among state workers that doesn't appear to exist. He issued the order on the same day legislation was filed to fulfill his pledge to require thousands of welfare recipients to pass drug tests. If all of the governor's drug-testing plans come to pass, the drug screening business in Florida should be booming. So Floridians should not forget that Scott founded Solantic, a chain of walk-in health care clinics, and has placed his ownership into his wife's trust. Solantic promotes its drug screen testing services on its website.

Scott's needless, wasteful drug screen plans 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 7:46pm]
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