In their zeal to slow down government regulations, Florida lawmakers have inadvertently halted an effort to regulate so-called "pill mills" that fuel an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
The regulations were set to take effect Sunday for most pain clinics. But they are stalled by a new law intended to crack down on expensive state regulations. The law requires legislative approval of rules that have a significant fiscal impact.
That means the regulations could be in limbo until next spring when the 2011 legislative session convenes, according to state health officials.
``I would like legislators to explain the fact that the drug epidemic continues to grow while they remain silent,'' said Lynn Locascio, a Crystal Beach woman who founded Parents Against Prescription Drug Addiction. ``We feel like we're back to square one banging our heads against the wall.''
Locascio's 26-year-old son, Robert Palmisano, has been clean from pills since 2006. Before that, he was one of hundreds of addicts who went from doctor to doctor to get their fix of pain meds such as Oxycodone.
The new regulations provide basic standards for pain clinics, including how patients are evaluated and the physical specifications of offices. The rules also require unannounced inspections each year. Many clinics are currently unregulated because they don't accept health insurance.
``If you accepted only cash, there were no regulations,'' said Paul Sloan, who runs a Venice-based pain clinic and heads an association that supports the rules. ``An inspector can't go in and say, `Gee, you don't meet the rules' when there are no rules.''
The new law regarding agency rule-making -- enacted last week when the Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Charlie Crist -- requires legislative approval of new rules that cost more than $1 million over five years.
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