The opinion, released last week, states that “such ordinances are beyond the legitimate authority of a unit of local government” because they would infringe upon the state’s rights to regulate medical practices and the distribution of controlled substances.
The opinion was written by the Assistant Attorney General James M. Herrick in response to Johnson County Attorney Michael S. Endicott’s request for the opinion. The county was about to make a final decision about a pain clinic ban ordinance draft which was similar to the one already passed in Knott County. The opinion from the Attorney General’s office was also written in response to requests from Owsley County and the City of Booneville.
In the opinion, Herrick writes the factors the ordinances contain to determine whether or not a facility is a pain clinic “could apply to the medical practices of licensed physicians,” and states that such ordinances are “in conflict” with statutes upheld by the General Assembly.
The opinion also states that oversight of pain clinics within Kentucky is left to the Board of Medical Licensure.
Herrick concludes that the Office of the Attorney General “fully acknowledges the scale and depth of the social problems posed” by illegal drug trafficking in Kentucky, but that “the enactment of that remedy (to solve the issue of pain clinics) is reserved to the General Assembly.”
Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said he did not agree with the opinion of the Attorney General’s office and that this opinion would “kill [Perry County’s] ordinance” which the County Attorney, John Carl Shackleford, was currently in the process of drafting.
Shackleford could not be reached for comment before publication, but Noble said the County’s next step in terms of the ordinance will be left to Shackleford’s decision.
The opinion does not say county governments can’t outlaw pain clinics regardless, but if they do so, they could be sued under Kentucky statutes.
“There should be a law passes allowing county governments to do something (about pain clinics),” Noble said.
He said he understands that some people truly do need pain management services to deal with chronic pain, but when so many people attend certain facilities in such numbers that the line to receive services extends out the door, this is suspicious behavior. This was something Noble said Perry County’s ordinance was going to address.
He also said that if a pain clinic is going to operate legally, there needs to be a doctor who has a clean record on site and all patients requesting services need to submit to background checks and properly vetted to determine the level of their pain.
Another meeting of the pain clinic ban task force was scheduled for last night and Noble said this opinion would likely be discussed with Shackleford. He added that something needed to be done in order to control what have become known as “pill mills.”
“At some point, something’s going to have to be done because we’re losing a lot of people,” Noble said.