KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Lawmakers are taking action to try and end the prescription pill epidemic. Legislation goes into effect this year to make it much more difficult for pill mills to operate in the state.
State Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs says there wasn’t a problem with opioid addiction 10 years ago, but just a few years ago that changed.
“It’s a man-made plague that’s come in to our community. Last year we had around 940 people who died in car accidents and every one of those is a tragedy. We had almost 1,300 people that died of opiate overdose and these were accidental overdoses,” said Briggs.
Briggs says it’s a problem impacting the entire community with Tennessee being the number two state in the country abusing prescription pills.
“We’ve had a judge with a problem. We have lawyers. We have doctors,” said Briggs.
With two bills that have passed starting July 1, there will be a crackdown on pill mills. Every medical director of a pain clinic will have to be board certified.
“This year we really specified what training that board certified pain specialist would have to have and we eliminated eight or 10, rather than pill mills well call them diploma mills, that you give your money and you get a certificate saying you’re a pain specialist,” said Briggs.
The pain clinics will be licensed and the health department will do inspections making sure there are adequate records about the pills being dispensed.
“If the health department during their inspections find that there’s discrepancies, then we can put a full time monitor in the clinic to be sure they are doing what they are supposed to and it has to be paid for by the clinic and not the taxpayer,” said Briggs.
Medical professionals who work in the office will need to be listed and it can no longer be a cash only business.
Dr. Mike Caudle, an OBGYN at Cherokee Health Systems, sadly delivers many addicted babies if these measures would help stop pain pill abuse and save lives.
“It’s a horrible problem. The money that they need for their pregnancy and their other children is misdirected to the opiate medication,” said Dr. Caudle.
Dr. Caudle says the new laws could save lives.
“We look forward to this being an important step, not the only step, to stop this huge epidemic which is much worse than the public understands,” said Dr. Caudle.
Briggs says reputable pain clinics will remain open to serve those needing pain management. He also says federal money will soon be available to get more treatment centers. Briggs says there are often other-non addictive methods available to treat pain.