Pain clinics not welcome in Kingston

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By Mike Gibson
Kingston officials want to send a strong message to pain-management clinics that might even consider calling the city home.

That’s why City Council made a motion last week to take such prospective clinics out at the knees.

Concerned that the often-shady enterprise of pain management — big clinics that dole out large quantities of powerful narcotics to allegedly afflicted patients, en masse — might gain a foothold in Kingston, Council had asked City Attorney Sandy McPherson to see if it could stave off any future entry of such into the city.

“These pain clinics are nothing but illegal drug stores,” council member Don White said during the Nov. 1 work session.

“I’m against them, and I’m for anything we can do.”

White noted that Roane County has experienced its fair share of problems with prescription pill-related deaths, even without a clinic in Kingston.

Though no pain management clinics are presently in the city, council members worry that could soon change.

Nearby Knoxville just flushed several such operations out of its city limits through a program of systematic police pressure, among other things, and some speculated the businesses might look to find a roost in neighboring areas.

In the meantime, the Tennessee General Assembly recently passed a law that creates a statewide board to regulate pain management clinics. The law takes effect in January 2012.

To date, there has been almost no oversight of pain management through any professional or legal entity.

The item that will see the Nov. 8 agenda is a resolution placing a moratorium on any permits, approvals or other requests regarding potential new pain clinics for the 120 days prior to the new law taking effect.

At that point, council hopes, the new state regulations will keep the clinics sufficiently in check.

“This is the strongest you can get for the next 120 days,” said McPherson. “But don’t misunderstand; you don’t have a lot of options you can control.”

The fact that current laws have left local governments with so little in the way of regulatory power makes Knoxville’s response one of the few viable alternatives, said Councilman Kevin McClure.

“If we do get one, I’m for doing what Knoxville did,” he said. “We set the police outside, and we harass them.”