Florida has been a major player in the prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country, but efforts by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have reduced the flow of addictive pain pills onto the streets.
It is no secret that Bondi made pill mills and prescription drug abuse a priority when she made the move to Tallahassee in January of 2011. Initially, her ideas were met with a cool reception in the governor’s office, but over the last year things have thawed and new enforcement strategies are paying off.
At a press conference Wednesday, Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, and Department of Health Interim Surgeon General Dr. Steven Harris announced the positive results achieved by the collaboration of local, state, and federal agencies.
Florida-licensed pain clinics have declined from 854 to 508 since March 2011. Sadly, in 2010, Florida was the workplace of 98 of the top 100 prescribers of Oxycodone in the nation. Now that number is just 11. Nationally, fifty-three of the top 100 Oxycodone purchasing pharmacies were in Florida last year. Only 19 of those pharmacies are still in operation today.
A year ago, the Governor’s Office created the FDLE-coordinated Statewide Drug Enforcement Strike Force. Over 2,100 arrests have been made since this time last year, with 34 of those arrests being physicians. Almost half a million prescription pills, fifty-nine vehicles, 391 weapons, and $4.7 million have been seized.
Bondi admits that though great progress has been made in Florida, where more Oxycodone was dispensed in 2010 than in all other 49 states combined, still more can be done. She worked with state legislators to craft a bill creating a Statewide Task Force on Drug Abuse and Newborns, which will investigate the effects of drugs on babies and work to implement preventive and corrective measures.
There was an eight percent decrease in prescription drug deaths in Florida from 2010 to 2011, according to annual Interim Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Reports. This still left 1175 people succumbing to pill abuse in 2011.
Although a continued attack on the drug epidemic is required, AG Bondi started the fight with her insistence that the governor not kill off the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program back in April 2011. She educated the governor and lawmakers on the scope of the problem and rallied support to fix it. Her work is finally paying dividends.