An Editorial by Senator Ken Yager
On June 14, Governor Haslam signed Senate Bill 1258 regulating pain management clinics into law. Public Chapter 340, which took effect July 1, requires the Tennessee Department of Health to establish rules to regulate the operation of “pill mills.” I introduced this new law in response to a growing crisis and in cooperation with the medical professional groups to weed out pill mills that do not adhere to legitimate dispensing practices. It also empowers the medical professional organizations to police its members practicing in a pain management clinic.
The Governor’s signature comes not a minute too soon. Prescription drug abuse has become the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. It affects men and women, college grads and high school drop outs, the rich and the poor. The most alarming demographic is that prescription drug addicts are disproportionately young. More than 13 per cent of people ages 18 to 34 seeking substance abuse treatment were taking prescription pain pills. In the South, oxycodone can be more easily obtained than heroin! And keep in mind that Tennessee ranks second in the U.S. in the number of prescriptions dispensed.
Many Tennessee pain management clinics operate according to medical protocols and deliver critical services to their patients. Unfortunately, there are also some in this industry who are cash cows for their owners to get rich without any thought of the destroyed lives left behind, as well as, the devastating impact on family members and friends.
The new law will require pain clinics – for the first time – to obtain an operating certificate from the Tennessee Department of Health. The Department will establish the rules to oversee clinic operations. Clinics will be required to operate under the supervision of a duly licensed medical director possessing an unrestricted medical degree. No certificate will be issued to an applicant/owner with a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction if it is related to the distribution of illegal prescription drugs or a controlled substance.
To me one of the most important provision is of the new law is the prohibition of cash transactions. The new law creates a paper trail on all transactions by prohibiting cash payments for services except where a third party payer will be billed.
Public Chapter 340 is a step in the right direction. Curbing the abuses in the proliferating prescription abuse will save lives.