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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Capitol: Clinic Clean-up Bill Up Today

Clinics that provide anabolic steroids and other controlled drugs to anyone with enough cash - from teen-age body-builders to pro baseball players - have festered in Florida because of a loophole in the law.

A bill aimed at closing it comes before the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday afternoon.  The bill, (SB 746) by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, would give the Agency for Health Care Administration authority over all clinics, not just those that accept insurance.

"Current law does not allow the (Department of Health) or AHCA to do anything about bad health care clinics that take only cash," Dr. Ken Woliner of Boca Raton, an advocate of cleaning up the industry told Health News Florida. "This bill fixes that."

Also in the Capitol:

  • New safety regulations aimed at Florida’s popular parasailing industry continue to move through Senate committees, the News Service of Florida reports. Similar efforts have failed in previous sessions, but this bill, (SB 320), has widespread support partly because of the a videotape showing two Indiana teens being seriously injured while parasailing. The accident, in Panama City Beach, is within the district of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

  • Nurses and physician assistants could have the power to identify individuals needing an involuntary psychiatric evaluation, according to a bill passed the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation. The Baker Act now allows physicians, mental health professionals and police the authority to trigger the Baker Act examination for people that appear to be experiencing a mental crisis. But HB 829 would add Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and physician assistants to that list, theFlorida Currentreports.

  • Lawmakers continue to work on revamping the way law enforcement and social services agencies assist children who are being sexually exploited, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. A number of bipartisan bills are aimed at improving the support for children who experience severe emotional trauma, but are sometimes only jailed for their involvement in prostitution.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.