HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html State Senate Approves Meth Bill
Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jan 2005
Source: Bristol Herald Courier (VA)
Copyright: 2005 Bristol Herald Courier
Author: Kathy Still, Bristol Herald Courier
Bookmark: (Methadone)


NORTON -- The state Senate approved a bill unanimously Wednesday that would 
halt licensing of methadone clinics until regulations could be developed.

The measure was one of the first to get full Senate approval in this 
General Assembly session.

"It flew through," said Sen. William Wampler, R-Bristol, the bill's sponsor.

Lawmakers understood the bill and recognized the need to develop 
comprehensive regulations, Wampler said.

The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, which will review the bill 
along with legislation drafted by Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, that 
would keep the clinics from targeting counties without zoning regulations.

Bills become law if approved by the House and Senate and signed by the 

Wampler's bill would put the licensing of the controversial clinics on hold 
until state mental health and substance abuse officials could establish 
standards and evaluate the need for new clinics.

Southwest Virginians rallied last year against the clinics, which use 
methadone, a synthetic narcotic, to treat opiate addiction.

Critics call the treatment ineffective and say methadone clinics could 
increase neighborhood crime rates.

Washington Countians kept a clinic away from John Battle High School, and 
Pound and Wise County residents kept a proposed facility from opening near 
U.S. Highway 23 at the Kentucky border. Scott Countians remain opposed to a 
proposed clinic near Gate City.

Under the legislation, the director of the Department of Mental Health, 
Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services would develop regulations 
governing methadone clinics within 280 days of the measure's effective 
date, Wampler said.

The director would take into account security issues, the proximity of 
other clinics and the number of people in a given area who need drug treatment.

On a related matter, the Senate plans today to consider a Wampler bill that 
would start a statewide pharmacy monitoring program to combat drug 
addiction. It would curb doctor-shopping and pharmacy-hopping, the senator 

"We've seen so many cases of prescription drug abuse and numbers of deaths 
from overdoses," he said. "We have an epidemic."

The bill would allow police to track those suspected of going from doctor 
to doctor to get addictive prescription drugs. Now, police must go from 
pharmacy to pharmacy to gather information.

"This gives them one tool to turn the tide," Wampler said.

The bill includes enough safeguards to keep police from using the 
monitoring system for a "fishing expedition," he said.
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