The readers’ forum

Children: Pill mills’ collateral damage

 

Re the March 21 article Innocents Lost: As pills killed kids, the state shrugged: Too often, we forget that the policies we enact, or fail to enact, have direct and immediate consequences on the lives of those we serve. I can think of no better example than what you so clearly laid out and the impact that quasi-legal drug use has had on innocent children.

It was also rewarding to see that the changes Florida lawmakers made in 2011 to rein in so-called pill mills have had a very real and positive impact. As demonstrated in the article, since the passage of HB 7095 in 2011, the number of pill mill clinics has plummeted, as have the sales of lethal narcotics like oxycodone, and related deaths.

For the families — and especially the children — who have suffered, these trends indicate a positive direction for our state. But I hope the lesson of your story will not be lost on policymakers of this state. The article highlighted an area rarely explored: The collateral damage to children and, if for no other reason than their protection, we must remain vigilant.

During my eight years in the Florida Senate, I was one of the most outspoken critics of Florida’s failure to clamp down on these dangerous pill mill dispensaries, as I sponsored several pieces of legislation designed to deal with the scourge of prescription drug abuse.

Finally, at the behest of Attorney General Pam Bondi, the legislature enacted the landmark 2011 law that continues to save countless lives. Despite Florida’s remarkable turnaround, I can personally attest to the forces that are still working to loosen the restrictions on narcotic prescriptions and impede law enforcement from investigating doctor shopping. There is simply too much money to be made by illicit profiteers and there are simply too many potential clients who will do anything to feed an unhealthy and very dangerous addiction.

The current law sought to balance a number of competing and often complex variables and altering such a balance could have widespread devastating consequences for years to come. The 2011 law represented a balance among the legitimate needs of patients, the independence and authority of honest physicians, federal privacy restrictions and a host of other considerations.

That is why it is also vital that current lawmakers tread carefully on loosening restrictions on narcotics prescriptions and dispensation. In addition, new roadblocks must not be put in law enforcement’s way when it comes to investigating doctor shoppers and the physicians who are suspected of enabling and exploiting their addictions.

It is indeed sad that our state, as you say, “shrugged” for so many years. Thankfully, this trend has been reversed, although not fully solved. Let’s hope your series stands as a warning that our state should never shrug again.

Dave Aronberg, state attorney,

Palm Beach County

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