Wednesday, March 23, 2011
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Florida is the epicenter of a prescription drug abuse epidemic. Each day in communities from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale, thousands of doses of powerful narcotics like oxycodone are dispensed in pain clinics — storefront operations also called "pill mills."
When he started at the Broward County Sheriff's department 30 years ago, Al Lamberti says, the department was raiding crack houses and busting junkies.
"Nowadays, the drug dealers are working out of strip malls," he says.
Lamberti heads the sheriff's office in a county that includes Fort Lauderdale. It's a city that has become a destination, not just for spring breakers, but also for addicts and drug traffickers.
"We have more pain clinics than McDonald's," he says. "They're taking their toll."
Florida does have a prescription drug database. After years of lobbying by law enforcement, the state legislature passed a bill last session to create one. It just didn't provide money to pay for it. A private foundation stepped in and began raising funds for the database.
But recently, Gov. Rick Scott has come out foursquare against it. Scott hasn't said much about why he wants to kill it. When pressed at a recent news conference, he said: "I believe it's an invasion of privacy and...it appears that the money's been wasted."
Lamberti recently joined a dozen federal, state and local law enforcement officials at a news conference held to announce a major crackdown on Florida's pill mills. It was a series of busts, from Palm Beach to Miami, that included more than 20 arrests and the seizure of more than $22 million in cash, exotic cars and real estate.