Focus at Four: In the face of the opioid crisis, this state agency shuts down 'pill mills'

AUSTIN, Tex. (KBTX0) - "We're not new to the issue," said interim executive director of the Texas Medical Board Scott Freshour. "But how serious is it? It's difficult to gauge."

Photo: OIGatHHS / youtube

As the opioid crisis rages on, oftentimes the problem begins with a prescription painkiller--an opioid. Sometimes, a physician is too quick with the prescription pad.

Freshour says just a few years ago, these 'pill mills' and 'Dr. Feelgood' practices were easy to spot: unregistered pain clinics that called themselves pain clinics anyway.

"But as the board began to take action and monitor these individuals closely, over the years, you don't see any advertise treatment of pain," Freshour said.

That means Freshour and his team are now looking to family practices, wellness clinics--anywhere, really--to find the offenders.

But first, they need to hear about it from you.

"The board is a complaint-driven agency, so unless we have a complaint, many times these individuals don't come to our attention immediately," Freshour said.

Usually, it's not the patient or addict who comes forward, Freshour says; it's a loved one or family member who has seen one too many overdoses.

Then, the process moves quickly. The TMB can suspend a doctor just three hours after receiving a complaint and hold a hearing ten days later. Plus, the board has been given subpoena power to investigate.

Still, Freshour says, this doesn't come up a lot.

"We know it is out there, we know it is serious, but it is a small amount of physicians that are involved in this," said Freshour.

For the full conversation, see the video player above.