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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Let's seek a national solution to end prescription drug abuse

Several weeks ago, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined The Partnership at DrugFree.org in her continued fight to end prescription drug abuse. She said that we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to end this deadly epidemic. As a statewide organization that safeguards Floridians, we could not agree more. In my work, I have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse. Like any form of addiction, prescription drug abuse tears families apart and often causes its victims to lose their livelihoods. In order to keep Florida safe, we must act now to address one of the root causes of prescription drug abuse: the easy access that many Americans have to dangerous prescription drugs. Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, Bondi and the Florida Legislature, last year our state made combating prescription drug abuse a top priority, passing tough new laws, creating a Regional Drug Strike Taskforce, and implementing a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).
The PDMP was an excellent coordinated effort, and our hope is that we continue this important fight by doing even more to protect Florida's patients and citizens. NAMI Florida is hopeful that Florida can lead the national initiative to create a solution that complements existing state-based PDMPs and allows states to work together to detect fraud, waste and abuse. Florida's illegal and prescription drug epidemic is stretching the resources of health care facilities, hospitals and community treatment programs. We must focus on curbing the supply of illicit and legal drugs in Florida by not only securing funding for the PDMP system but also creating a national system that closes the self-pay loophole and allows states to work together to detect fraud, waste and abuse. Currently, 93 percent of prescription drug purchases are recorded and monitored. Unfortunately, many criminals have figured out how to avoid detection through these existing systems by using the "self-pay" loophole found in many states. This "self-pay" loophole allows dangerous drugs to fall into the wrong hands, putting thousands of our citizens, many of those with mental illnesses, at risk. We need to find a way to effectively track the remaining 7 percent of prescription drug purchases, which add up to hundreds of millions prescriptions each year. We need to make it impossible for criminals to take advantage of our state and eliminate the serious burden this problem is placing on health care in Florida. Please lend your voice and leadership to find a national solution to end prescription drug abuse.

Judi Evans is the executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Florida.
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