CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Commission is setting up a task force that will review ways to crack down on prescription "pill mills" and illegal methamphetamine labs.
The task force plans to gather data, take testimony and hold public hearings, starting next month.
"It's a public-health crisis, and frankly, we've talked about this long enough," Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said Thursday. "We're going to do something about it."
The task force will examine statistics about prescription drug overdoses and pill mills -- illegitimate pain clinics that have sprung up in Kanawha County, Carper said. The group also will review the significant increase in meth lab seizures in the county so far this year, and try to find out if the numbers are linked to a rise in sales of the cold medication pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient.
In recent years, state lawmakers have rejected bills that would require a doctor's prescription for pseudoephedrine, after drug industry and retail store representatives lobbied against the proposals.
Carper said the task force would look at whether it's possible to pass a county health ordinance to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's substance-abuse bill, signed into law in 2012, includes language that would seem to block cities and counties from passing local ordinances that restrict pseudoephedrine sales at local pharmacies.
"The Legislature should have put an end to this," Carper said. "It's poison."
The Kanawha County Commission has appointed Dr. Dan Foster, a former state senator who sponsored a bill to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only, to head the task force.
Foster also serves on a panel that's been studying the county's meth lab problem for several months.
"This is an issue that has plagued the county for years, and it continues to get worse," Foster said. "The commission's task force is going to actively seek solutions and do what we can to solve this very serious problem."
The task force also will include Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department; a representative from Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants' office; an aide to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Lynn Fruth, CEO of Fruth Pharmacies; Steve Neddo, Kanawha County's planning director; Dave Potters, executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy; and Brenda Isaac, lead nurse for Kanawha County Schools.
Carper also plans to appoint lobbyists for the Consumer Products Healthcare Association to the panel. The trade group opposes requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.