Every year since Gov. Rick Scott took office, Mike Fasano says he’s had to fight to keep the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program alive.
But now he won’t have to worry about it for the next four years, thanks to a last-minute rescue of the program by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Using money made from a settlement with CVS Caremark, Bondi has pledged $2 million toward the prescription drug program, enough to keep it going until 2018, after the state Legislature failed to include $500,000 in annual funding in its $77 billion budget.
“Shutting down pill mills and protecting Floridians from prescription drug overdoses has been one of my top priorities,” Bondi said, in a release. “The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is one important tool in the battle against prescription drug abuse, and by funding it for four years with this settlement money, we can ensure that it continues to be an effective tool.”
Fasano helped create the program through legislation as a state senator, and continued to champion the program, even as Pasco County’s tax collector. He helped secure the funding last year thanks to a little bit of general fund money left over from the state budget, but it was clear it would not even be considered in the upcoming budget at all.
In a statement issued Monday morning, Fasano did not mince words with the Legislature or Scott.
“The total failure of this Legislature and governor to properly protect the citizens of our state is disappointing,” Fasano said in his statement. “This is one tool that law enforcement has long supported as a means to protect our citizens. To end this legislative session without funding the PDMP has put countless lives in jeopardy.”
On Monday afternoon, Fasano told The Laker/Lutz News that Scott has cut the program from his budget from the very beginning of his term.
“It took us 10 years to finally get it passed (originally), and I pursue it because I’ve spoken to the moms, dads, and grandparents, and uncles and sisters who have lost loved ones because of prescription drugs,” Fasano said. “I know for a fact that it is working.”
A request for comment with Scott’s office is pending.
The program started in 2009, and requires health practitioners to report every time a controlled substance is dispensed to an individual. The information is stored in a database designed to discourage “doctor shopping” and other ways people acquire prescription medication in an attempt to abuse it.
Funding the program requires about $500,000 each year, or 0.0006 percent of the state budget, Fasano said.
Bondi pointed out in a release that when she took office, 98 of the top 100 dispensing physicians of oxycodone nationwide resided in Florida. Now, none of the top 100 reside here.