Johnson County focus of C-J series on docs, prescription abuse

The second day of The Courier-Journal‘s investigation into prescription drug abuse and the role of doctors looks at Johnson County, ranked 11th in the state for drug overdose deaths despite its small population of 24,000. It ranks second in such deaths per capita, right behind adjoining Floyd County, as shown on this C-J map of death rates by county. (Click on map for larger version.)

In Paintsville, Johnson’s county seat, three doctors have been convicted in the past 10 years of prescribing narcotics illegally. The epidemic prompted the county Fiscal Court to try to pass an ordinance that would have outlawed clinics that were “dealing largely in cash; drawing significant numbers of patients from other counties; generating at least half of their revenue from prescribing narcotics; dispensing disproportionate amount of prescriptions, compared with other medical services; and not being affiliated with a nearby hospital,” R.G. Dunlop reports. Attorney General Jack Conway’s office ruled the county did not have the authority to pass such a ban.

Dunlop relays the stories of the Paintsville doctors with shocking prescribing practices and also speaks to the mayor, who called the problem “an epidemic.” “What we end up doing is arresting all these ‘victims’ … and the doctors who create the problem continue to practice.” The C-J site also includes this video of Dunlop and photographer Scott Utterback’s encounter with Aaron Cantrell, a co-owner of a clinic that is pictured today and will be the focus of more coverage tomorrow. (Read more)

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