Florida's Drug Enforcement Strike Force Teams have put a dent in the out-of-control distribution and abuse of prescription drugs in Florida. Created by Governor Rick Scott last March, the teams have taken almost half a million pills off of Florida's streets. They have also made 2,150 arrests -- including 34 doctors -- and seized 59 vehicles, 391 weapons and $4.7 million.
"These teams are accomplishing exactly what they were created for by targeting the prescription drug abuse problem at its source -- the pill mills, pain clinics and unscrupulous doctors that contribute to the illegal distribution of legal prescription drugs. The strike force teams are getting drugs off our streets and saving lives," said Governor Scott. "We've sent a clear message that Florida will not be known as the state that tolerates criminal drug distribution and abuse."
In 2010, Florida was known as the place for criminals to come and get their pills. Ninety of the nation's top 100 Oxycodone purchasing doctors and 53 of the nation's top 100 Oxycodone purchasing pharmacies were located in Florida. Over the last year, the number of doctors has been reduced by 85 percent, down to 13, and the number of pharmacies has declined by 64 percent, down to just 19. In addition, the number of pain clinics has declined from 800 to 508 clinics in the state.
"With seven Floridians dying per day due to prescription drug abuse, we had to take action and shut these pill mills down," stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. "We have made exceptional progress, and we will continue these efforts that save lives."
The 2011 Interim Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Report shows the number of prescription drug deaths fell nearly eight percent compared to the same period in 2010.
"In one year, we've gone from being known as the Oxy-express to being a role model for other states dealing with this problem," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "While we have made tremendous strides, we're just getting started. Prescription drug trafficking remains a significant concern for Florida law enforcement."
Health officials have played a key role in the fight against prescription drug crime by cracking down on unscrupulous doctors, pharmacies and pain clinics.
"The Florida Department of Health realizes the severity of this epidemic, and will help lead the fight to stop the inappropriate prescribing of highly addictive controlled substances to patients, and stop senseless deaths that come from this practice," said Florida Department of Health Interim Surgeon General Dr. Steven Harris.
The statewide strike force, under the coordination of FDLE, works with seven regional teams, each led by a police chief and sheriff.
"Law Enforcement has teamed with city and county government, state regulatory agencies and federal representatives to use all the tools in our toolbox to fight this battle," said Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railey. "Investigating doctors, pill mills and drug trafficking organizations can often be long and costly. One important tool has been the availability of strike force funding. Many of the cases would go unaddressed without these funds."
"The Florida Sheriffs Association is pleased to be part of successfully cutting-off the illicit supply of prescription pain killers and making our communities better and safer for law-abiding, hardworking Floridians," said Steve Casey, executive director for the Florida Sheriffs Association.