INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Pain clinics in will not be allowed to move into the unincorporated parts of Indian River County until after officials rework their rules and regulations pertaining to such businesses.
The Board of County Commissioners unanimously supported asking the Indian River County Tax Collector’s Office to not issue any business tax receipts to potential pain management clinics effective today through next Tuesday. At that time, the commissioners expect to approve a one-year emergency moratorium on approving any new pain clinics from setting up shop.
“We are getting the phone calls,” said Debbie Gee, Director of Tax and License Services in the Tax Collector’s Office. Gee explained that in recent weeks, there has been an uptick in the number of anonymous phone calls coming into the office from people asking if the county allows pain clinics.
Gee told commissioners that if the county were to put in place a moratorium, the clinics would move elsewhere.
Pain clinics have undergone intense scrutiny in Florida, as the numbers have increased in South Florida and seem to be moving farther north, toward Indian River County. Already, the cities of Sebastian and Vero Beach have enacted moratoriums to prevent new clinics from opening within their city limits.
Detective Bill Staar, of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office MACE Unit, told commissioners that the most recent clinic to open in the county – within the City of Vero Beach – has already generated at least one arrest – that of a Michigan resident on a felony charge. He did not give details on the arrest.
The clinic, located near US 1 next to two bail bonds businesses and across from three pawn shops, opened just before Vero Beach’s moratorium went into effect.
Det. Staar said that the Sheriff’s Office has been monitoring the pain clinic and has run license plates of the numerous vehicles in the parking lot – on the two days a week the clinic is open. He told commissioners that many of those vehicles are registered to people who have suspended licenses and are from out of the county or state.
“The word gets out very quickly,” Det. Staar told commissioners of how a clinic can have so many customers so soon after opening.
Commissioner Wesley Davis said that while he supported putting new rules into place, he cautioned his fellow commissioners that they temper the regulations to not restrict legitimate pain management clinics from being able to open.
Det. Staar told the commissioners that there are four or five legitimate pain management clinics in operation.
County Attorney Alan Polackwich recommended to the commissioners that they put in an immediate request to the Tax Collector’s Office to not issue business tax receipts to new pain clinics and in the meantime he would craft an emergency moratorium resolution for the board to vote on next Tuesday.
After that vote, county planners and staff would work to revise land development codes and other regulations to restrict pain clinics from moving in.