Pain clinic moves in while Vero Beach officials consider moratorium

VERO BEACH – A pain clinic is nearly ready for business across US 1 from the Vero Beach Community Center while Vero Beach city leaders work their way through the bureaucratic process of enacting a moratorium that would prevent future clinics from setting up shop in the city.

The clinic, next door to Anthony’s Bail Bonds, on the east side of US 1, has a simple banner over the door that reads “Pain Management” and its phone number. There are no days or hours of operation on the door. There is a buzzer customers ring to be allowed inside. The clinic is owned by Bruce Karlin, according to business records, and is registered as Stuart Pain Management. He received his business tax receipt from the city on May 10.

According to its Web site, it provides on-site dispensing of prescription medications, and does not accept insurance plans checks – cash and charge only. An initial exam costs $175 and there is a $20 drug screen. Monthly follow-up exams are $145.

The Vero Beach City Council last month began the process of keeping such businesses out of the city due to concerns of public health and safety. While Councilman Brian Heady wanted to put an immediate hold on allowing pain clinics to move in, city staff said it was necessary to go through a public hearing process first.

The City of Vero Beach will hold its first of two public hearings during the Tuesday evening city council meeting.

Sebastian City Council has also addressed the issue – and put into place an emergency moratorium effective last Wednesday when they voted to approve it. They will hold public hearings for proposed rule changes later.

The Vero Beach pain clinic’s owner, Karlin, was unwilling to speak to a reporter from when reached by phone.

“I’m not giving you a story,” Karlin said, adding, “You’re not getting an appointment. Go somewhere else.”

Pain clinics across the state have developed a reputation as “pill mills” – places where people can easily obtain narcotic painkillers. The danger, according to authorities – including the Sebastian Police Department – is that people overdose on the drugs or funnel the pills into the drug trafficking trade.

A Grand Jury in Broward County has found that burglaries and robberies in the vicinity of the clinics increased, as had prescription drug trafficking and street level sales, identity theft and organized crime, according to backup material on the matter provided to council members.

Also, the Grand Jury said that there has been an increase in drug-related deaths due to lethal doses. In Florida in 2006, there were 2,780 lethal dose reports of prescription drugs, the Grand Jury said.

The number increased to3,317 in 2007 and 3,750 in 2008.

Vero Beach Community Development Director Tim McGarry said that the city does not have a problem with Karlin’s pain clinic specifically.

“We don’t know how this one will be run,” McGarry said.

He said the city’s moratorium on new clinics – if approved – would give the city six months to define “pain clinic” and “pain management clinic” in the city’s land development code and establish codes and rules for opening within the city.

Currently, pain clinics fall under medical uses within the city’s code.

Vero Beach leaders are considering requiring medical clinics and offices to provide a written statement that the facility is not or will not be a “pain clinic” or “pain management clinic.” The city could then refuse the development application if no such statement were given.

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