Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would further regulate opioid treatment centers in the state.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, would put into place new requirements for those wanting to open up centers in Georgia. The centers offer medical-assisted treatment and counseling to help treat patients with addictions to heroin and other opioids.
Last year, Mullis sponsored a measure to place a one-year moratorium on issuing new licenses to centers. He said he wanted to further study why Georgia had more clinics than neighboring states.
“We found that we have a weak system in order for somebody to get licensed to open up a treatment facility,” Mullis said at a state Senate committee meeting last week.
Mullis said that while Georgia has about 70 clinics, Tennessee, which has a tighter regulation process, only has 12 centers. Mullis said that in his North Georgia district, clinics serve out-of-state patients. He said he’s concerned about how some clinics operate.
“We’ve found some are here not doing it the right way,” Mullis said.
He said some clinics at first charge $1 a pill in order to get business, then charge much more afterwards when the patients start coming to their clinic.
“This eliminates the bad guys and makes sure the good guys are permitted to put facilities where it's needed in this state – so it gets rid of the rip raff,” he said.
Mullis's bill would also limit the number of clinics in a certain region.
Jonathan Connell, president of the Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia, expressed caution about the bill, but said he is grateful for lawmakers listening to treatment providers’ input.
“We want to ensure that there is not one bad apple out there who is misconstruing the data for rest of everybody else,” he said.
He said there are already federal and state regulations treatment centers have to comply with, but there could be more oversight on the state level.
“We just want to ensure that there is an access to care in the state of Georgia,” Connell said. He said he also wanted to make sure that when patients access care, that it's the highest quality care possible.
Mullis' proposal on tighter regulations was passed out of a state Senate committee last week. It will have to pass both the state Senate and state House for approval.