Texas practitioners snared by state's controlled-substance permit backlog

source-image
Sep 01, 2011

PONDER, TEXAS — Dr. Phillip Henderson of Ponder Veterinary Hospital spent more than an hour-and-a-half on hold with the Texas' Department of Public Safety (DPS). He was waiting to hear about the status of his controlled-substance certificate that he tried to renew months before.

He finally hung-up in frustration, and his certificate expired.

The state's DPS is calling it a backlog, and other professions relying on these certificates are calling it outrageous.

His next call went to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA). They in turn contacted Henderson's state representative about the problem, and he received a renewed certificate three days later. In the interim, Henderson "managed to get by" with the help of the other veterinarians in the practice.

"It's kind of chilling to say you can't use those things, and they can't get you a certificate, either," Henderson says "I imagine if I'd have been by myself I'd really have been upset."

TVMA Director of Government Relations Elizabeth Choate, who helped Henderson get his certificate renewed, says she has only been contacted by one other Texas veterinarian about the DPS backlog, but says there are probably more veterinarians who have struggled with the agency.

"Veterinarians are not a bunch of complainers," she says. "I think, unfortunately, veterinarians don't complain until it's too late."

But other professions that need the one-year certificate to prescribe or purchase controlled substances expressed outrage over the backlog. DPS responded by extending its registration renewal period from 60 to 90 days to handle nearly 5,000 certificates set to expire Aug. 31.

Only 20 percent of registrations had been received by early August, and almost 3,600 had been renewed, DPS officials say. A new computer system was blamed in part for the backlog, according to the Texas Medical Association.

Choate says while not many DVMs turned to TVMA for help, the backlog was a huge deal for solo practitioners.

"This could indeed become a serious issue for DVMs as well as other physicians if corrective action is not taken," Choate says. "Delays of this nature can dramatically impact the ability of a small business to function and serve its clients, so we hope that the situation will be resolved as soon as possible."