· Lax Florida laws have allowed the proliferation of “Pill Mills”, facilities that provide prescription pain medications to anyone
· Broward County has the largest number of these operations of any county in Florida
· These facilities attract criminals and drug addicts from all over the US.
· Our Mayor and Commission (other than establishing a moratorium on the opening of new pain clinics), have done little to close down current operations that threaten the safety and welfare of several Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods
I recently opened a local copy of a weekly entertainment magazine and discovered twelve pages of ads for “Pain Management Clinics”; almost 100 clinics hawking prescription pills here in South Florida! More than 20 of those clinics are located right here in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida is now known as the capital of prescription drug abuse, due in part to the state’s loose laws regulating the dispensing of prescription drugs. Of the nation’s 50 largest clinics prescribing the highly addictive Oxycodone, thirty are here in Broward County, where clinics recently sold almost 7 million oxy pills in just six months. That lack of strong regulation has turned our area into a destination for pill seekers from states such as Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, (where regulations are tighter).
Experts say the wild explosion in unscrupulous pain clinics here is contributing to a rise in prescription drug overdoses. More than 4,000 Floridians died from prescription drug overdoses last year.
Today, if you are addicted to prescription pain medications you can simply come to Fort Lauderdale and pay to get your fix.
And pay they do. Addicts from all over the Southeastern US have learned that it’s a simple one-day drive to Fort Lauderdale to get all the pills they want. It’s easier than going to Mexico. Thousands come here and stock up on hundreds of pills each by going from clinic to clinic. Many then sell them on the street back home at a huge profit. A prescription pill like oxycodone that normally costs 50 cents or less will cost you $3-5 dollars at a clinic; yet can be sold for $10-20 each on the street in more tightly controlled states. The clinics here can rake in tens of thousands of dollars a day in their often-illicit activities.
The process works like this: You go in to a clinic and pay a $50 to $200 “visitation fee” to see a “doctor”. You don’t even have to make an appointment to go in; “walk-ins welcome” they say. After paying this fee, in a few minutes you can walk out with a prescription for oxycontin (a highly-addictive brand of an opiate-derived pain pill). Most legitimate pharmacies won’t fill your prescription, so these clinics will do it for you, but at an inflated price. Most of these clinics don’t accept insurance, so you must pay cash. And that is where these clinics really rake in the money.
These operations attract not only addicts, but criminals. Addicts commit burglaries, robberies and other crimes to feed their habits, and anger neighborhoods with their disruptive behavior. Some clinics hire armed guards. The patients loiter outside, chain smoking, cussing, littering, and panhandling.
One clinic here in Fort Lauderdale is just steps from a “Ronald McDonald House”. Dozens of addicts and street criminals line up before the facility is even open, waiting to get their fix. The facility operates despite alleged violations of local code standards. Fort Lauderdale’s Code Enforcement and Police as of yet have taken no action.
Florida recently passed legislation that is supposed to better regulate these clinics, pending the governor’s signature. The law will supposedly prevent felons from being owners of pain clinics that prescribe opiate-based drugs, and will give law enforcement easier access to records from pain clinics. But there will still be no way to prevent addicts or dealers from going to multiple clinics to get large quantities of pills. Florida is the largest of 12 states that currently have no system to track pill usage.
Our City must be more aggressive with these pill factories. Our City has instituted a six-month moratorium on the opening of new clinics (it expires this fall), but has done nothing to enforce existing laws or to close down illegitimate operators. We must do more to stop being a magnet to addicts and dealers from around the country who come here with their criminal behavior. When will Mayor Seiler and our Commission take a stronger stand? When you voice your objection to the status quo: Here are their email addresses:
Mayor Jack Seiler: firstname.lastname@example.org
District I Commisioner Bruce G. Roberts: email@example.com
District II Commisioner Charlotte E. Rodstrom: firstname.lastname@example.org
District III Commisioner Bobby B. DuBose: email@example.com
District IV Commisioner Romney Rogers: firstname.lastname@example.org