The Texas legislature is taking up the issue of prescription drug abuse.
Now Louisiana law enforcement officers are crossing state lines to join the debate.
Senator Tommy Williams: "I would like to mention that Sheriff White from Orange county brought this issue to me. We've got a very serious problem with illegally prescribed prescription drugs in that part of my district. And you've often heard me joke that I feel sometimes like I have a couple of parishes in western Louisiana and we have law enforcement people here from Calcasieu parish that would like to testify also. They're right next door to Orange county."
One by one representatives from Calcasieu parish spoke to Texas legislators about the new trend in drug abuse that crosses all borders.
Detective Billy Chapman: "I'm here representing SWLA law enforcement and I can tell you that we're seeing a trend in our neck of the woods that is like nothing I've seen in my 17 years in law enforcement. I've brought some numbers to share with you to give you an idea of how bad the problem is in Lake Charles; 34 deaths in ‘04, 42 in ‘05 and 59 deaths in 2006."
Chapman goes on to explain that 2007 looks to claim the highest death toll yet with 32 lives already lost to prescription abuse.
As a former officer, himself, Assistant District Attorney David Green knows all too well the struggles today's narcotics agents face.
Assistant District Attorney David Green: "We always focused more on the cocaine, methamphetamine, the acid, the LSD. Whatever else was coming in, you know, kind of the pendelum affect, you get rid of one and the bad guys decide they like something else, its cheaper and easier and whatever. With these pharmaceutical things it's a whole different story. People have easier access to them and it's just the bottom line. It's not just us in Lake Charles or Calcasieu parish ya'll are losing people...And until we get a better handle on it that's going to continue to happen."
Our undercover agent describes for the committee the Houston investigation conducted just one day before this testimony.
Agent: They gave me some paperwork to fill out and a form to show where I hurt and I told them my neck hurt. They gave me a number and in about 2 or 3 minutes I was seen by a doctor, allegedly. He asked where I hurt. I told him my neck hurt. He said well what you need is 120 Soma's, 120 Lorcet, and 30 Xanax."
Senate Committee Chariman Jane Nelson: "How much time did this doctor spend with you?"
Agent: "Less than 10 minutes, probably less than five minutes . There was actually another patient in the same room, sitting across from me and he was doing the same thing with him...2 at a time."
Texas Senator: "The unfortunate thing here is there is a legitimate use of Hydrocodone there are legitimate pain clinics and there are people who truly need long term dosing of the medication and hopefully we can identify these."
Senator Williams: "We would not restrict a physicians ability to prescribe this in any way all we're doing is monitoring it. If it please the chair I think the sheriff has some stunning information."
Information that would show Louisiana residents no longer have to travel two hours to shop around for pain management...its now just a short 30 minute drive to Orange county.
Sheriff White: "What we've got preliminarily is in ‘03 we had a pain management clinic move in and start writing, it was 100-dollars a visit cash only they didn't take any insurance. And they were seeing about 140 patients a day and their prescription "cocktail" is 120 Vicoden, 90 Somas, and 90 Xanax. That was their prescription."
Chairman: "After hearing your numbers its no wonder why the detective from Louisiana is here today. The drugs aren't staying in Orange county are they."
Sheriff White: "No, the majority of the people are Louisiana."
Billy: "It's just become a nightmare for us and we desperately need some help."
Chairman: "We very much appreciate you all coming over here. As I said before, you're good neighbors but we will address this problem."