UPDATE: Scioto County Lawmaker Fights Pill Problem

By: Randy Yohe; Sarah Sager Email
By: Randy Yohe; Sarah Sager Email

UPDATE 2/11/ 2011 @ 11:26 p.m.
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- While state representative Dr. Terry Johnson has introduced legislation aimed at reducing the prescription drug problem all throughout Ohio, his roots in Scioto County make the fight against prescription drug abuse personal.

"We remember not so very long ago when it was a healthy vibrant, forward-looking community. In a lot of ways, it still is. But we have a significant problem eating at the roots of our community, and that's prescription drug abuse," Johnson said.

House Bill 93 is a crackdown on the problem.

The bill aims to put limitations on in-office dispensing of controlled drugs, puts licensing requirements on pain clinics and contains a take-back program, where people can safely dispose of unused medications.

However, Johnson believes community support is the only way the bill can work.

"The community effort is the most important thing. No piece of legislation will solve a problem as large as this and one that has as much evil inertia to it," Johnson said.

Scioto County Sheriff's Capt. David Hall is among those fighting the pill problem.

"The problem is huge. Over the last five or six years, we went from fighting marijuana and cocaine to fighting prescription drug abuse,” Hall said.

Hall says 98 to 99 percent of the county's crime is drug or alcohol related. From that, he estimates 95 percent is a prescription drug abuse problem.

"It affects every family. I don't think you'll find a family that's not been touched or affected by a prescription drug abuse," Hall said.

Lives are what Dr. Johnson and House Bill 93 hope to save.

"If this legislation starts to save lives, it will certainly be worth the effort," Johnson said.

According to Johnson, House Bill 93 is on the fast track in Ohio's House of Representatives.

Ohio’s speaker of the house has sponsored the bill, which means it should pass in the house, Johnson says.

The bill was also introduced by Dave Burke, who is a pharmacist from Marysville, Ohio.

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Despite the troubling local Florida connection to Miami area pain pill mills, one local county with a growing pain pill problem is fighting back.

Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said a local coroner's study shows a dramatic rise in overdose deaths from prescription painkillers. Furthermore, Scioto County's overdose death rate ranks second statewide to Montgomery County and the Dayton area.

Dr. Adams said the fact that local pharmacies refuse to fill these pain clinic prescriptions -- mainly because the clinic works on a cash-only basis with no health insurance and all the out-of-state customers -- highlights a countywide concern.

In October, the Scioto County Health Department will lead a community wide symposium, specifically targeting the epidemic of local pain pill abuse and how to fight back.

"We have to have a plan," Dr. Adams said. "Make sure the people who need pain medication get it and keep the rest off the street."

A spokesman with the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency said the DEA is well aware of the new pain clinics in Scioto County but can not comment any further at this time on any possible ongoing federal investigation.

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