CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia officials say they're disappointed that Florida's governor wants to kill a planned prescription drug monitoring program in the Sunshine State, which is a destination for people who deal pills.
Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who took office in January, didn't include funding for the project in the proposed budget he unveiled last week.
Florida's prescription drug regulations are notoriously lax. In 2009, lawmakers there approved plans for a monitoring program, which would electronically track all prescriptions filled in the state to cut down on "doctor shopping."
Police in West Virginia say it's common for people to travel to Florida to load up on prescriptions at storefront pain clinics. Flights from Huntington to Florida have been nicknamed "the Oxy Express."
"The prescription drug monitoring program would have been a great help," said Sgt. M.T. Smith of the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Some Florida officials might not realize the damage their state's pill mills are causing in Appalachia, he said.
"They're on the end of counting the money," he said. "We're on the end of having to repair the households ... putting kids in foster homes, trying to fix moms and dads, putting people in jails."
West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of drug overdose deaths. More than 90 percent of those deaths involve prescription drugs.
Scott's office did not return the Gazette-Mail's request for comment on Friday.
In an interview last week with the Associated Press, Scott's spokesman said the governor worries that the program would not effectively fight drug abuse and could infringe on patients' privacy rights.
"Is that a function of government, to track the activities of law-abiding people in order to track a smaller subset of criminal behavior?" the spokesman, Brian Hughes, asked.
Some Florida legislators, as well as law enforcement officials and the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers are pushing back against Scott's plans to repeal the monitoring system, according to news reports.
West Virginia and 33 other states have prescription drug monitoring programs. The Mountain State is working to link its database with other states' systems.
House of Delegates Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue said he plans to introduce a legislative resolution next week urging Scott to reconsider.