A state Senate panel has approved a bill that would make it harder to open a methadone clinic in Georgia. Its sponsor said addiction to painkillers and heroin is a major problem, but some clinics are not serving patients well.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he wants to have the “right” treatment clinics in Georgia.
“We believe that we have some that are not here for the right reasons,” Mullis told the state Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on Thursday at the state Capitol.
He said some clinics are enticing customers with short-term cheap deals and some are not offering good counseling to clients.
Methadone is used as a substitute for people trying to recover from addiction to opioid drugs like painkillers and heroin. Georgia has 70 methadone clinics, but they’re concentrated in some areas including Mullis’ mountainous district.
Gwinnett County, home to nearly 900,000 people, has three clinics, he said.
In Bibb County there are three and there is one each in Perry and Warner Robins, according to federal records. Bibb and Houston counties each have a population of about 150,000.
Mullis’ Senate Bill 88 limits the number of clinics allowed per county or small group of counties, and it sets up a state licensing process that will include a review of things like a clinic’s treatment and counseling plans.
State Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said during the hearing that he was struggling with the bill because it seemed to limit the treatment options for narcotic-addicted people.
But there are “nefarious” centers in Georgia, said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R- Buford.
A separate bill meant to tackle opioid addictions by other means got approval by the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.
Senate Bill 81, among other things, would require doctors who regularly prescribe certain drugs to check a database to see if the patient gets suspiciously frequent prescriptions.
“The only (prescriptions) that would be entered are the ones that we feel like are making their way down into the street level that is causing the heroin epidemic,” said Unterman, the bill’s author.
She said that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications are not part of the bill. An earlier version of the bill touched off panic among ADHD patients and caregivers because it limited those medications to a five-day supply. She said that provision had been included in error.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee