LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A veteran Kentucky congressman who represents a region ravaged by prescription drug abuse has bluntly asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to back off repealing a prescription pill-monitoring law in that state.
U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers wrote his fellow Republican that Kentuckians and Floridians alike are dying from prescription-drug overdoses, and said "now is not the time to back down from this life or death challenge."
Scott, a former hospital company CEO who took office this year, has signaled he wants to repeal Florida's prescription drug-tracking law, which has not been implemented yet.
The law aims to crack down on "pill mills" that have attracted drug dealers and addicts from states such as Kentucky, which already operates prescription-monitoring programs to try to prevent abuse.
Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said late Friday that the governor is concerned that federal funding that's supposed to be available isn't in place.
"We have a lot of concern about how this is going to be paid for," he said, noting that the program would cost about $500,000 a year to run. Beyond cost, he said, Scott has concern about the government tracking citizens' personal use of prescription drugs.
In his letter, Rogers told Scott that canceling the Florida program "is equal to firing firefighters while your house is ablaze; it neither makes sense nor addresses an urgent crisis."
He urged Scott to "go to work" implementing Florida's drug-monitoring program. Florida lawmakers didn't provide money for the system, but instead directed the governor's drug control office to raise private contributions. Scott disbanded the drug office in one of his first actions after becoming governor.
Rogers, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, represents an Appalachian district that's been hard hit by the drug scourge, including prescription-pill abuse. Rogers was the driving force behind Operation UNITE, a federal initiative that included undercover narcotics investigations and addiction treatment in the region.
His letter said the abuse of pills causes heartache in his district, and is the result of "the illicit diversion of prescription narcotics from Florida to Appalachia Kentucky, and frankly, along the entire eastern seaboard."
Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington contributed from Tallahassee, Fla.