RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Florida has become the epicenter for a new drug epidemic - this one involving prescription drugs. Each day in Florida, thousands of doses of powerful narcotics are dispensed in pain clinics, storefront operations known as pill mills. Federal, state and local authorities are working to drive those pill mills out of Florida.
NPR: Florida Governor Rick Scott.
GREG ALLEN: Al Lamberti says when he started at the Broward County Sheriff's Department 30 years ago, the department was raiding crack houses and busting junkies.
AL LAMBERTI: Nowadays, the drug dealers are working out of strip malls.
ALLEN: Lamberti now heads the Sheriff's office in a county that includes Fort Lauderdale, a city that's become a destination, not just for spring breakers, but also for addicts and drug traffickers.
LAMBERTI: We have more pain clinics in Broward County than Starbucks. We have more pain clinics than McDonald's. They're taking their toll.
ALLEN: DEA Special Agent Mark Trouville said over the past year, the joint law enforcement operation has made more than 300 undercover drug buys from pain clinics, and more arrests are coming.
MARK TROUVILLE: So if you're a clinic owner, or a doctor, or an employee, knowingly working at one of these illegal pill mills, we have probably bought dope from you. And we are probably coming to see you soon.
ALLEN: Trouville said one reason pill mills have proliferated here is because Florida, unlike most other states, lacks a system for monitoring drug prescriptions. That would help prevent doctor-shopping - people who travel from one clinic to another, buying hundreds of doses of prescription drugs.
MONTAGNE: Florida's Governor Rick Scott.
RICK SCOTT: I don't support the database. I believe it's an invasion of privacy. And I believe that, one, it appears that the money has been wasted.
ALLEN: Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo is also a surgeon.
DANIEL MONGIARDO: I have friends that are E.R. doctors along I-75, and it's a daily basis where somebody goes into an E.R. off I-75 with an overdose. We had a 41-year- old mother who was in the backseat of a car coming back from Florida who overdosed, and she died.
ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR news, Miami.
MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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