Gov. Rick Scott on Monday started off a news conference on his plan to combat pill mills by saying he doesn't want to talk about the controversial prescription drug monitoring database. He said he still has privacy concerns about the program that some say will help fight the state precription drug abuse epidemic.
Instead, Scott announced the launch of a statewide "strike force" led by FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies. Scott directed the FDLE to use $800,000 in unspent grant money to help pay for overtime and other costs associated with the effort at the local level.
"I have consistently said that we must target the criminal source of this terrible problem in our state," Scott said, with Attorney General Pam Bondi and a handful of police officers and sheriff's deputies at this side. Scott called it "phase one" in a comprehensive plan to target drug distributors. "It recognizes that law enforcement officers on the front line targeting criminals will be how we stop this problem."
In her remarks, Bondi, who supports the database, acknowledged that she and the governor have a difference of opinion on that matter, but she praised the governor for taking action on the law enforcement front. "We need more tools for all these people standing behind us," she said.
After the news conference, Bondi said she considers the database "an essential tool for law enforcement." She also said a top priority for her are new rules that would limit the number of pills that a pain clinic doctor can prescribe.
"Right now you can walk in and get a prescription for 100 or more OxyContin tablets and that's ridiculous. No legitimate doctor wants to do that," she said, adding that legitimate pain management clinics need to be protected. "They're getting hurt by these drug dealers wearing white coats"
The "strike force" will involve personnel in the Department of Health, Agency for Health Care Administration, Division of Business and Professional Regulation, Florida Highway Patrol and, with the blessing of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, investigators in the office of insurance fraud.
"This is going to bring us all together," Bailey said. "It's going to bring a lot more resources to the table and it's going to target those resources better."
Scott also indicated at the news conference that he supports legislation making its way through the House that would limit the ability of people who prescribe drugs to also dispense them.