By MELINDA WILLIAMS
When Pulaski officials learned of plans for a “methadone clinic” in town, there was nothing they could do to stop it since there were no zoning provisions to address such facilities.
Not wanting to end up in the same position with pain management clinics, Pulaski Planning Commission recently developed and recommended approval of proposed zoning ordinance changes that would give the town control over pain clinics.
Pulaski Town Council requested planners study the issue of pain management clinics and recommend appropriate amendments to Pulaski Zoning Ordinance after Pulaski Police Chief Gary Roche suggested the town could benefit by zoning regulations to curtail them.
Roche told planners that some areas have had people set up pain management clinics in order to sell pills, but once the heat is turned up, they shut down and move on. Nevertheless, he said those people take advantage of the fact zoning laws are not available to control the clinics.
According to a variety of news reports over the past five years, multiple states, particularly Florida, have had problems with rogue pain management clinics being set up to sell powerful and addictive pain medications. Such clinics, called “pill mills,” often operate on a cash-only basis and have people lined up outside waiting to be seen so they can get pain medications that are ultimately sold on the streets for huge profits.
Roche told the planners that areas where such clinics set up business have documented increases in crime.
Under the proposed zoning amendments, pain management clinics would be defined as publicly or privately owned establishments that:
1) Advertise as providing pain management services;
2) Has pain treatment as its primary or exclusive treatment, or
3) A majority (50 percent or more) of patients receive pain management services.
Excluded from the definition are state licensed hospitals or clinics licensed as hospitals; outpatient clinics operated by a state licensed hospital; state- or federally-operated hospitals or clinics; facilities affiliated with accredited medical schools or state licensed hospitals; facilities that do not prescribe or dispense controlled substances for pain treatment; state licensed hospices; state licensed nursing homes or long-term-care facilities for the elderly, disabled or infirm, and state licensed rehabilitation centers for surgical or orthopedic patients.
Pain management services are defined as “medical treatments, therapies, protocols or care, including the distribution of controlled substances that are used to prevent, control, reduce or stop pain sensations.
The amended zoning ordinance would allow pain management clinics in the B-2 Business district by special exception only, allowing for conditions to be met for operation. The conditions prohibit pain management clinics from locating on the same parcel of land as a pre-existing pharmacy or operating within 1,000 feet of a residential district, pre-existing pharmacy, school, day care center, day care home, nursing home, adult day care home, religious institution or another pain management clinic.
The conditions also require that pain management clinics be located in a permanent building so as to prevent mobile facilities from being set up. They also are prohibited from being operated as a home occupation.
The proposed amendments will be forwarded to town council for consideration. Although the planners have recommended adoption of the changes, town council can accept the recommendation and approve the zoning amendments, following a public hearing, it could send the matter back to the planners for more study or work, or it could decide not to adopt any amendments pertaining to pain management clinics.