Senate approves measure to halt new narcotic treatment programs

Concern over the growing number of narcotic treatment programs in Georgia has prompted state lawmakers to seek a one-year moratorium on issuing any new licenses.

Senate Bill 402, which passed the Senate unanimously Monday, would put a one-year moratorium on new drug abuse treatment and education programs, lasting from June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2017. The intervening time would be used to study why so many methadone clinics seem to be popping up in Georgia, particularly near its borders with other states.

Any pending applications for licensure would not be affected.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said Georgia is the 8th largest state, but it has the third largest number of narcotic treatment programs in the country.

Florida, which has twice the population of Georgia, has 22 methadone treatment clinics. Georgia has 62 “and climbing,” Mullis said. Methadone is a legal drug that is prescribed to help curb heroin withdrawal.

Mullis said the process for opening a narcotic treatment program is easier in Georgia, which is why businesses are coming here. He said that in his district of Chickamauga, there are seven clinics within 10 miles, and customers are coming from as far away as Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina to be seen.

“We don’t want to keep people from getting treatment, but we want to make sure it’s the right treatment,” Mullis said.

The bill would create a State Commission on Narcotic Treatment Programs to study licensure requirements and determine whether there is need to make legislative changes.

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