Per this Wall Street Journal article, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s call to cancel a state drug-monitoring program has sparked an uproar in Appalachian states that say they are deluged with illegally bought pills from South Florida pain clinics.
Supporters of the program, which has yet to start operating, say it would help combat Florida’s “pill mills”—shady storefront operations that provide a bounty of prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrodone, for addicts and traffickers. The tracking system would include a centralized database to help identify buyers who are accumulating large numbers of pills and the doctors who are over-prescribing them.
Florida, like most states, is facing a large budget deficit—in their case, to the tune of $3.6 billion. When the bill which established the drug-monitoring program was passed in 2009, the state envisioned that the program would be funded through federal monies. This hasn’t been the case, but given the size of the problem and its effect on neighboring states, the “pill mill” situation in Florida is of pressing concern to many throughout the region.
Pill mills have flourished in Florida, especially in Broward County, in recent years. Weak standards governing who can set them up, a lack of oversight by state agencies and the absence of a prescription-monitoring program have contributed to the problem, said Sherry Green, chief executive of the nonprofit National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.
According to the Florida attorney general’s office, clinics are often cash-only enterprises employing doctors who write prescriptions for painkillers without examining patients.
They have proved to be a magnet for buyers in the Southeast. According to Frank Rapier, director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, highway patrol officers in hot spots like eastern Tennessee routinely stop vanloads of people returning from Florida with fresh stockpiles of prescription drugs.
In West Virginia, state Sen. Evan Jenkins said flights on discount airlines between Huntington, W. Va., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., have been dubbed the “Oxycontin Express.”
States in the region have been cracking down. Kentucky created one of the first prescription-monitoring programs in the country in 1999. The system has helped stamp out the sort of storefront businesses seen in Broward County, according to Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University researcher who has studied the programs. In all, 34 states have implemented them. Read more…