By GARY POPP
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was in Jeffersonville Tuesday to praise area state lawmakers for recently passing legislation that will crack down on pain-management centers, aka pill mills — facilities that have legally written prescriptions for pain medications with little regulation.
Zoeller praised the work of Indiana Sen. Ron Grooms, and Representatives Steven Stemler, Ed Clere and Steve Davisson, who were also at the press conference which was held on the fourth floor of the Clark County Courthouse.
The event followed closure of the Legislature’s 2013 session.
Zoeller described pill mills as “irresponsibly over prescribing of addictive painkillers to patients which lead to drug dependency, easy access for abuse and accidental overdoes, all with terrible consequences.”
Zoeller said Grooms was one of the leaders of increasing regulation of the pain-management centers.
Grooms said the passage of the legislation is partly due to residents of the Jeffersonville neighborhood Franklin Commons, which included Clark County Wellness LLC, a pain-management center, which is no longer in operation.
Grooms said he was contacted by residents of the neighborhood who claimed the center was an area of concern.
“The concerns of the neighbors was the line of people that would be at the door in the mornings waiting to get in with no appointments, taking cash only, no insurance, all the signs of a dispensing of prescriptions, not medicine, prescriptions,” Grooms said.
He said there were concerns that people were receiving the prescriptions then selling the paper slip to others.
Grooms said he had been tracking legislation on the same subject in other states when he was contacted by the Jeffersonville residents.
“This came at a time where I was already considering introducing legislation. It just so happens that it happened in my back yard, so to speak,” Grooms said. “The bottom line of this is I arranged for Franklin Commons [residents] to testify at two committee hearings and the Senate floor about their experiences of dealing with the over prescribing of controlled substances that are in turn diverted or abused.”
He said it was the organization and motivation of the Jeffersonville residents to make a difference in their community that helped bring fruition of the legislation’s passage.
“Their ability to come together to react against something they felt was a detriment to their community in allowing almost gang-like activity during certain hours of the day by just an uncontrolled parade of people in their neighborhood passing out prescriptions, trading medication, etc.,” Grooms said.
He said the residents were being intimidated by the clinic’s patients and the patients were being intimidated by the residents.
“It was not a healthy environment,” he said. “There was visible guns being carried, I was told.”
With the passage of Senate bill 246 and House bill 1465 facilities that prescribe, dispense and administer controlled substances will now be more closely monitored through the use of “common-sense regulations and legal mechanisms,” Grooms said.