Though Florida’s 2011 legislative session only recently came to a close, a program that emerged as one of its key successes has fallen behind schedule.

Contracting delays have thrown the implementation of a prescription drug database intended to aid the state’s crackdown on pill mills database off schedule by at least two weeks. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health says the contract has taken longer than expected to finalize but should be ready in the next few days.

A Prescription Drug Monitoring Program designed to crack down on pill mills was approved by the Legislature at the close of the session and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Rick Scott. Though Scott was initially skeptical of the program, he has since championed its efforts to thwart Florida’s notorious prescription drug problem and helped preside over the House of Representatives after a bill supporting a tougher crackdown on pill mills was salvaged on the final day of the session.

Scott had worried the database could pose privacy issues and be too costly for the state to implement. Even after receiving an offer of $1 million from Purdue Pharma (makers of the pain pill OxyContin) to support the program, Scott rejected the money.

Questions concerning the funding of the drug-monitoring database still abound. A federal grant program (NASPER) that would have given the PDMP financial support was cut in April, and, as the bill is written, the database can only be funded by grants and private donations.

The PDMP Foundation already has around $1.3 million set aside – enough to fund the Program for up to 18 months. Should the federal NASPER grant program be reinstated, the program would have another source of funding. Attorney General Pam Bondi has committed to providing forfeiture funds (via seizures of drugs, cars, and other items by local law enforcement agencies) to the program so that there will likely be a steady revenue stream even after the existing dollars run out.

But now, yet another delay to its implementation has surfaced. The Department of Health (which is in charge of implementing the PDMP) has yet to sign the contract authorizing the program. The original target date to execute the contract was May 1, but due to scheduling constraints, that date has been moved back to May 16.

“The contract is simply going through an internal routing process,” says Nancy Blum, Communications Director of the state Department of Health. “We are dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and we expect the contract to be ready early next week.”

According to Greg Giordano, Chief Legislative Aide for Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who is one of the program’s most outspoken supporters), the delay means that the program is already two weeks behind schedule.

“With 90 days for installation, followed by 30 days of required training, that would push the ‘go-live’ date back two weeks to September 11,” he says.

Giordano says that he has no reason to believe that the delay was intentional, but was merely the result of the Department being behind schedule.

“Given that the governor was on hand when the House passed out the final version of HB 7095 last Friday, I would hope politics is no longer part of the discussion.  It is definitely time for the work of the past nine years to come to fruition later this summer,” said Giordano.

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