The Peachtree City Council instituted a one-year ban on “pain management clinics” Thursday night, but officials insisted the effort will only stave off unscrupulous operations notorious for attracting junkies, while allowing similar legitimate businesses to remain in place.
In fact, Peachtree City has already seen one such operation but managed to shut it down about six months ago, Police Chief Skip Clark told council. The scheme attracted patients almost exclusively from outside the city, and in some cases even from outside the state of Georgia, Clark said.
In the case of this company, which set up shop in a local shopping center, the patients would be given a prescription that would be filled at another location owned by the same company, and not a pharmacy, Clark said.
The city is hopeful the matter will be addressed by the legislature this year. Clark noted that Georgia, unlike other states, does not have a centralized computer system to determine if a citizen is filling multiple prescriptions at the same time.
This particular clinic, with the exception of a few days, didn’t even have a licensed doctor on the premises, Clark said. Plus, in addition to not honoring any medical insurance plans, such companies typically require payment to be by cash, he added.
At a legitimate clinic for treatment of patients, typically a patient will see a doctor or physician’s assistant and be evaluated, Clark said.
“That’s not what’s happening … people are going in to get their prescription renewed, paying their money and they’re on their way,” Clark said.
The legislation passed by the city does not forbid pain management clinics that are affiliated with a hospital, hospice, or any facility that treats those who are terminally ill or have drug addictions, according to City Attorney Ted Meeker.
Businesses falling outside the bounds of that definition will still be allowed to operate, as long as they do not fill or dispense the pain medication prescriptions either on or off-site.
Councilman Eric Imker said he was wary of legislating against legitimate businesses. Meeker replied that any person who is denied an occupational tax certificate under the law can petition the City Council to lift the moratorium for that one specific business.
In fact, staff most likely will be making the initial determination on whether the moratorium applies to a new business or existing business re-applying for their annual tax certificate.
Meeker explained that he once had back trouble and was seen by a company he thinks was called Pain Consultants of Atlanta.
“My recollection of the services offered in that business, I don’t think they technically would fall per se under what we’re prohibiting tonight,” Meeker said.
Mayor Don Haddix said he “had a very valuable experience with pain doctors” and didn’t want to see legitimate clinics outlawed from operating in the city.
“Those doctors are taking insurance, and not just giving you a prescription and taking your credit card,” Clark said. “They’re actually examining you and keeping medical records.”
The resolution to adopt the moratorium was unanimously approved by council.