Orange County leaders could make sweeping changes in upcoming months that would change the way local pain-management clinics operate and implement a range of other rules designed to combat the region's prescription-drug epidemic.
If commissioners take the recommendations of their task force, pain clinics would be required to provide the county with monthly business records documenting the number of prescriptions written for certain drugs, the total number of patients treated and the state of residence of those patients.
Operating hours of pain clinics would be limited to weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And new clinics would be prohibited from opening on the same property as a pre-existing pharmacy.
The ideas are among a host of recommendations recently made in a 47-page report compiled by Orange County's prescription-drug task force, which has been studying the issue since last year.
"I am very, very impressed with the work they have done," Mayor Teresa Jacobs said. "What I think was the right approach … was to make sure we had all the stakeholders at the table since the beginning."
The group reviewed other local ordinances in Florida aimed at pain-management clinics, looked at loopholes in state legislation and considered the far-reaching effects of the epidemic, such as an increase in the number of babies born addicted to drugs because their mothers are abusers.
Though legislators recently launched the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which lets physicians and pharmacists look up the controlled substances a patient has been prescribed, the local task force wanted to take that tool a step further.
It wants to require both physicians and pharmacists to check the PDMP.
"It's great to have that database, but if there's no requirement to utilize it, then it's just kind of an after-the-fact," Jacobs said. "If it's not used, it's just a line in our state law somewhere."
Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Bruce McMullen, a narcotics supervisor who also served on the task force, said he hopes the recommendations, if implemented, will make it more difficult for people to doctor-shop to obtain multiple prescriptions.
He also hopes new zoning rules could help keep neighborhoods safer by cutting back on criminal activity associated with pill mills.
The task force made a range of recommendations that could also affect landlords and pharmacists — and could include criminal violations. Some of the group's other suggestions:
•Require pain-management clinics to maintain monthly personnel reports.
•New pain-management clinics cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing pharmacy, school or day-care center.
•Landlords, property owners or leasing agents will be required to "exercise reasonable care" to ensure pain clinics or pharmacies are not violating county codes or state laws.
Violations of the proposed suggestions could carry a criminal penalty, which would be a misdemeanor punishable of up to 60 days in jail and a fine.
It's likely there will be opposition to some of the task force's recommendations, which county leaders could implement via two different ordinances in upcoming months.
Though the number of registered pain-management clinics in Orange County has decreased significantly in the past year, public officials hope the new measures will help combat the existing prescription-drug problems and prevent further abuse.
"We hope it's a deterrent for the non-law-abiding business owners," said FDLE Agent Tom Foy, who works in the agency's Orlando region and was a task-force member. "If we make it tough for the illegal, illicit [pain clinic] owners to operate in Orange County, we hope that they don't open at all."
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