By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Dublin Town Council voted Thursday night to have its planning commission look into zoning changes that would give the town control over pain management clinics.
The town of Pulaski adopted such an ordinance in June at the recommendation of its planning commission.
Thursday, Town Manager Bill Parker asked for direction from council members as to whether they are interested in such an ordinance. He said he doesn’t want the town to end up in a situation where a clinic moves in and the town doesn’t have any control over its location or operation.
Mayor Benny Skeens said it’s a shame council even has to discuss such an ordinance. He added, “pain management clinics used to be a good thing, and generally I think they still are,” but some abuses have brought localities to this point.
Skeens noted that Dublin recently had such a problem. He apparently was referring to a clinic Dr. Linda Cheek was operating a short distance from town hall. Cheek is awaiting sentencing in federal court on 172 counts of illegally distributing pain medications out of her office.
Dublin town attorney Tommy Baker said the ordinance Pulaski recently adopted is fairly well written, but the planners will need to look it over to make sure it meets Dublin’s needs. The planning commission will also recommend to council whether it thinks such an ordinance is appropriate for Dublin.
Pulaski developed such an ordinance after Pulaski Police Chief Gary Roche indicated 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. He said they 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.
Under Pulaski’s ordinance, 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.”
Pain management clinics are limited to the B-2 Business district in Pulaski and are allowed by special exception only. This allows the town to set specific conditions for operation.
Pulaski’s special 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.