Georgia Puts One-Year Moratorium on Issuing Licenses to Opioid Treatment Clinics

Georgia has put a one-year moratorium on issuing licenses to clinics that use medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, NPR reports. Legislators say Georgia put a cap on the number of clinics because it wants to determine why so many opioid treatment programs have opened in the state.

“If you go to the parking lot of any of these clinics in northwest Georgia, you’ll see as many Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky tags as you do Georgia tags,” said state Senator Jeff Mullis, who sponsored the moratorium legislation. He adds that people are driving in from all over the south to get treatment there.

The law also requires the establishment of a committee to look into the question of why there are so many clinics. Georgia has 67 opioid treatment programs, compared with 12 in Tennessee, 24 in Alabama and one in Mississippi. Florida, with a population nearly double that of Georgia, has 65 clinics.

Mullis said it is too easy to open an opioid treatment clinic in Georgia. The state does not have a Certificate of Need program for opioid treatment centers, unlike surrounding states. These programs require operators to show there is a need for such treatment before opening or expanding.

In 2014, more than 1,200 people died of an overdose in Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid drugs were implicated in many of these deaths—a 10 percent increase from 2013.

Federal health officials say medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, together with counseling, is the best way to treat addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers.