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State’s media hit Scott’s database-repeal idea

Cops, grieving parents and editorial boards say they're appalled at Gov. Rick Scott's idea of repealing the planned prescription drug monitoring system, aimed at catching drug-dealers who go "doctor-shopping" for narcotics.

Columnists, however, are having great fun at Scott's expense.

Mike Thomasof The Orlando Sentinel writes: "I guess Gov. Rick Scott includes dope dealing as one of the Florida industries he hopes to stimulate."

The database, which would allow doctors, pharmacists and law-enforcement to track those who get a prescription for addictive pain pills, might cut the death rate and thus harm funeral homes and florist shops, Thomas writes.

Killing the database, he writes, "will keep thousands of dealers happily employed, ranging from the sleazy docs who hand out the narcotics to the thugs who sell them on street corners."

Fred Grimmat The Miami Herald writes that a Kentucky sheriff suspects that Florida just doesn't want to cut off the flow of money from drug-dealers who supply the addicts in other states, including his.

They are, after all, tourists. "I guess their money's getting pumped into the Florida economy," the sheriff told Grimm.

The editorial boards of the state have taken a more sober view, calling Scott's idea "ill-advised" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) and "irresponsible" (Palm Beach Post).

AWTSP-TVreport in Tampa interviewed a "disheartened" law-enforcement officer and a grieving mom, who said she just couldn't believe Scott would kill the database.

"This is a huge epidemic that needs to be addressed," Laurie Serra told the reporter. "People are dying, and we can't wait!"

WWSB in Sarasota reported that substance-abuse coalitions were "devastated, mortified and up in arms."

A concerted effort today by Health News Florida staff to find some publication that supports Scott on this, in an effort to balance the opinion page, came up empty.

Public support for the repeal proposal so far has been limited to conservatives in the Legislature. As HNF reported this week, Rob Schenck, the chair of the House Health and Human Services committee, opposes the drug-monitoring program because he sees it as too intrusive -- like "Big Brother."

Press spokesmen for Scott have offered varying theories of why he included repeal of the drug database in materials accompanying his budget proposal. One suggested that it wasn't needed because Attorney General Pam Bondi has other ways to solve the "pill-mill" crisis, another said the program might be recreated in a different form, and one suggested the program wasn't appropriate for government.

"He does not believe this is a function that is best performed by government," Amy Graham wrote HNF in answer to the "why?" question on Tuesday. She did not say who Scott thinks is best positioned to run the system.

Graham has not responded to requests for further information.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.