Lenoir City pain clinics defend their practice after scrutiny

By HANA KIM-6 News Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - Several pain clinics have opened in Lenoir City and that has law enforcement on alert.

Pain clinic owner Tracy Hawk said Tuesday she understands the attention, but her clinic, Tennessee Preferred Medical, has nothing to hide.

Hawk employs doctors and nurse practitioners who provide services like spinal injections and other procedures. 

Hawk says they don't prescribe narcotics during the first two visits and they accept health insurance, something many corrupt pill mills do not do.

Hawk says she's aware of the pill epidemic, and she and her staff are very discriminating about the patients she takes.

"I would say 85% of the patients that come in to clinic we don't accept as patients in the clinic. Unfortunately, we have to act as detectives," Hawk said.

The real detectives will say, however, that these pain clinics are attracting a growing number of addicts.

Lenoir City Police Chief Don White said Monday they're seeing vehicles from Southeast Kentucky and surrounding counties at various pain clinics.

"It's a concern for me that an individual drives 60, 70, or 100 miles from their community to seek pain medication," Chief White said.

Tracy Hawk's take on it is, "You have so few of these clinics so we are going to have surrounding counties coming."

Hawk says legit patients from outside Lenoir City are welcome, but never anyone from out of state.

6 News also spoke with Urgent Care in Lenoir City, which opened about six months ago. They also say they do not take out-of-state patients.

However, Urgent Care doesn't take health insurance right now. The clinic says that's because it's new, and it takes time to sign up for health insurance as a medical clinic. 

Urgent Care says it's in the process of signing up and will soon take health insurance.

State lawmakers passed legislation this year setting up a registration program for pain clinics. The rules also cover certifications required for operators and training for medical personnel.

Plus, the law requires policies for keeping patient records including the reason for continuing to prescribe painkillers.

Patients are not allowed to pay cash at pain clinics except for insurance co-pays and deductibles.

Hawk says she's excited about the new law and believes it will weed out the bad clinics and help regulate the good ones.