On Monday, Boyd County Sheriff Terry Keelin worked on the case of an accused drug dealer arrested Saturday who allegedly got his pills from a Broward County, Fla., pain clinic.
The case of Jonathan Quisenberry, 28, accused of trafficking in oxycodone, is pretty typical, Keelin said. So it was good news that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Thursday creating a prescription monitoring system. Keelin said he thinks the new law will make it tougher for Kentucky folks to get pills from Florida.
"It will definitely help," Keelin said. "Ninety percent of those we bust get the pills from Florida pain clinics."
Kentuckians are traveling to Florida, where doctors prescribe powerful pain pills for cash. Several people have died from overdosing on pills they got in Florida.
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The prescriptions are obtained legally, but some people bring them back to be sold illegally. The trips are an effort to escape the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system, known as KASPER, which tracks who prescribes, dispenses and receives the drugs.
Florida lawmakers had tried unsuccessfully for seven years to get such a system in Florida. Crist signed the bill this year because "it is an important measure that will help protect consumers," said his spokesman, Sterling Ivey.
Ronnie Goldy, an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney for Rowan, Bath, Montgomery and Menifee counties in Kentucky, said Monday a significant number of the 105 people indicted recently in a sting called "Operation Pill Crusher" got the pills they sold from Florida pain clinics.
"It's a continuing problem," Goldy said. "Maybe this legislation will curtail it."
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo had written to both Crist and the Florida Speaker of the House to encourage them to pass the law.
"This important legislation will transcend borders, saving lives of both Kentuckians and Floridians," Mongiardo said Monday. "For too long, Florida has been without a prescription drug monitoring system that allows health officials to prevent the practice of doctor shopping."
Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said officials are already laying the groundwork for the Florida system.
Mongiardo said Florida officials have asked for the software Kentucky uses for KASPER, and Kentucky officials are working to share the information.
Mongiardo said Kentucky officials are working on an interstate system with Tennessee and Ohio so officials can be aware of prescriptions in all three states. He said once Florida's system is up and running, Florida can share information with other states about who is prescribing, receiving and dispensing narcotics.
The goal, he said, is to create a national system of information sharing to prevent drug seekers from traveling to other states.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported last week that at least 17 new clinics have announced grand openings in South Florida since the Florida General Assembly passed the prescription bill on April 30.
Additionally, the newspaper reported that in a racketeering indictment last month, federal prosecutors alleged that members of the Bonanno organized crime family were using pain clinics to distribute prescription drugs.