Kentucky politicians of both parties object to Florida governor’s plan to stop pill-monitoring program before it starts

The new Florida governor’s plan to scuttle a yet-to-start program to monitor painkiller prescriptions “has sparked an uproar in Appalachian states that say they are deluged with illegally bought pills from South Florida,” Arian Campo-Flores reports for The Wall Street Journal. The strongest objections come from Kentucky.

“The tracking system would include a centralized database to help identify buyers who are accumulating large numbers of pills and the doctors who are overprescribing them. In his recently released budget proposal, however, [Gov. Rick] Scott [CFNews13 photo] recommended repealing the 2009 law directing the state to set up the system,” the Journal reports. “Scott has raised concerns about the database’s effectiveness and its possible intrusion on patient privacy. Pointing to a $3.6 billion budget deficit for the coming fiscal year, he also worries that the state would end up paying for a program that lawmakers designed to be funded by federal grants and private donations. Most drug-monitoring programs in other states rely on both federal and state funds.”

Scott’s move has prompted expressions of disappointment from some of his fellow Republicans in Florida and strong objections from politicians of both parties in Kentucky and West Virginia, hotbeds of for abuse painkillers such as oxycodone. “It seems Gov. Scott wants Florida to become the oxy-tourism capital of the world,” Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, a Democrat from Hazard, told the Journal. (Read more)

Republican 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, sent Scott a sharp letter on Feb. 17 expressing alarm and dismay. “Now is not the time to back down from this life or death challenge,” Rogers wrote, calling Scott’s move “equal to firing firefighters while your house is ablaze; it neither makes sense nor addresses an urgent crisis. Governor, your state, more than any other, must take this crisis seriously. . . . Your state’s participation is paramount to the success of our nation in fighting this problem, helping addicts get treatment and prosecuting pushers.” (Lexington Herald-Leader photo by David Perry)

Rogers dismissed concerns about privacy, saying Florida’s program, like those in other states, has strict regulations governing access to the data. Noting his new position, “I can certainly appreciate the fiscal pressures with which you are confronted in balancing a tight state budget. However, this is a matter which warrants sacrifices elsewhere.” For a story from the Herald-Leader’s Bill Estep, click here.

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