Georgia advances bill that makes providers criminally liable for not tracking opioid prescriptions
A Georgia state Senate committee passed a controversial bill on Feb. 9 that would hold healthcare providers criminally liable for not tracking prescriptions.
The bill narrowly passed with seven to six votes, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Senate Bill 81 would require providers who prescribe opiates, benzodiazepines and other strong pain medicines to register with the state prescription monitoring database, which tracks patients. Providers will have six months to learn the system that enables them to identify patients who either shop for doctors or use too many addictive prescriptions.
The the Substance Abuse Treatment an Overdose Prevention Act, or STOP Act, requires providers to enter the prescription data into the database within 24 hours or notify the board or agency if unable to comply.
If a provider "knowingly and intentionally fails to seek and review information as required by this part or who knowingly and intentionally disregards the prescription information shall be guilty of a felony," the bill authors wrote.
Punishment for this offense is imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than five years, a fine not to exceed $50,000, or both. Further, the providers will be reported to the licensing board for action to be taken against the prescriber's license.
Georgia providers protested the bill due to the severity of the punishment. But legislators stood by its wording.
"You have to remember we're dealing with professionals who've been to school for a long time," Sen. Renee Unterman (R-GA), chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee told AJC. "What I'm trying to do is get on the front end, ahead of the curve to save lives."
"I'm addressing the opioid epidemic," she added. "Unfortunately the doctors would like to make it all about them."
The hope is the bill will combat opioid addiction and is part of a larger statewide Senate initiative to improve mental health services for those addicted to opioids. Further, it's designed to bolster laws against opioid misuse.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where if it passes, the House will have a chance to make changes to the bill before a vote.