Miami Herald: Fla. lawmakers propose banning felons owning pain clinics
Nov 2, 2009
The Miami Herald publlished this article on October 31, 2009
Lawmakers announced Friday that they will be filing a bill that would require the state to revoke or deny operating licenses for pain clinics operated by convicted felons.BY SCOTT HIAASEN shiaasen@MiamiHerald.com
Hoping to close a loophole that has helped make South Florida the hub of black-market prescription painkillers, two Democratic state lawmakers are proposing legislation to ban convicted felons from holding an ownership stake in pain clinics distributing narcotics.
State Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and Rep. Kelly Skidmore of Boca Raton announced Friday that they will be filing a bill that would require the state to revoke or deny operating licenses for pain clinics operated by convicted felons. Under current law, a felon can own a pain clinic and distribute pills with little oversight from the state.
In the past two years, the number of pain clinics operating in South Florida has more than doubled, making the region the leading supplier of illegal painkillers in the eastern United States, according to narcotics investigators.
Earlier this year, a Miami Herald investigation identified several clinic owners who had been convicted of crimes, including a Davie clinic owner who served two jail terms for racketeering and fraud, and the owner of a now-defunct Wilton Manors clinic who pleaded guilty to possession of steroids with intent to sell.
During this year’s legislative session, Skidmore led an effort to create a statewide prescription database system to be used by doctors and pharmacists to detect patients who go “doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions to addictive painkillers such as oxycodone. The program should be put in place by the end of next year. Thirty-eight other states already have a similar program.
Under current law, the state Agency for Health Care Administration performs criminal background checks of all owners and key staffers at health clinics it regulates. But AHCA regulates only clinics that accept insurance — and most pain clinics take only cash.
“This industry has attracted far too many bad apples and this loophole needs to be closed,” said Gelber, who is running for state Attorney General next year.