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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Manatee to look at moratorium on pill mills

MANATEE — In an effort to control a potential proliferation of pain management clinics, the Manatee County Commission today will vote on a proposed emergency ordinance.

The measure would set up a process for issuing permits for medical facilities that solely dispense narcotic-based medications.

If supported by six of seven commissioners, the ordinance also would declare a moratorium for 180 days on such facilities until a state statute takes effect Oct. 1.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore asked the county attorney last month to look into reports of pain management clinics operating as “pill mills” for illegal distribution of prescription pain medication.

“It’s like a chronic cancer spreading across the state,” Whitmore said. “I’m glad the other counties are working together to control this problem.”

In documenting the need for a permit process and the moratorium, the proposed ordinance outlines several situations the county faces if there are no controls.

According to the ordinance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has data indicating prescription drugs are the fourth-leading cause of death in the nation.

The new ordinance also relied on a report by a Broward County grand jury on the proliferation of pain clinics in South Florida.

The grand jury found that Florida is the largest state without a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, allowing it to become a destination for drug traffickers, dealers and users to obtain narcotic medications for resale in a illegal market.

Also, more than 300 individuals were arrested recently in Kentucky for dealing in prescription drugs obtained in Florida.

The state statute recently signed by Gov. Charlie Crist will regulate all privately owned pain management clinics by limiting prescription dosage to only 72 hours worth and requiring certification of the facility ownership.

Whitmore said the state law does not go far enough and will recommend commissioners establish tougher regulations.

“This ordinance ... will give us time to come up with a way to get rid of these undesirables in our county,” she said.

Because the action was considered an emergency and the usual notifications were not given, six of seven commissioners will need to vote for adoption of the ordinance.

It will take effect as soon as the approved document is received at the Florida Department of State office in Tallahassee.

The city of Bradenton and Sarasota County adopted similar moratoriums last month, as have other jurisdictions in the region.

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