The Legislature overrode a veto by Governor Nikki Haley Wednesday, allowing the state’s health agency to be more involved in the regulation of narcotic treatment centers– specifically those that use a controversial practice involving the chemical methadone.
The requirement targets treatment centers that wean patients off heroin and other opiates by giving them methadone– a synthetic chemical that has similar effects as the drugs but a longer half-life.
The new law will require the treatment centers to obtain a Certificate of Need from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) before they can receive a license. Haley vetoed the bill, saying the process, “allows government to ration care, stifle competition in the medical field, and pick which facilities and practices are allowed to succeed.” Haley added the centers are already highly regulated on a federal level.
However, legislators (including several who also have reservations about the Certificate of Need process) said they believed methadone treatment should be regulated by the state.
The facilities were previously required to obtain a certificate until the Legislature, at DHEC’s insistence, voted to exempt them last year. The agency had said the step was not necessary. However, legislators became concerned when the number of methadone centers in the state nearly doubled in the aftermath of that vote. There are currently about a dozen facilities in South Carolina.
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter), who works in the medical industry, said the opening of one such facility in Greenville worried him.
One of their fliers that they had said “free month’s treatment of methadone if you sign up”… That’s not what we need in South Carolina. We do not need narcotic treatment centers here that are not regulated.
Rep. Kris Crawford (R-Florence) is an emergency room doctor. He says he’s seen the aftereffects of methadone treatment.
When these folks go in there and they don’t have the money to come back to the methadone clinic, or they get kicked out of treatment for some reason, they show up at my ER withdrawing from narcotics… This is not something we want to allow to happen to our citizens under the guise of a regulated industry… without some oversight.
Crawford said he was concerned the centers were essentially providing narcotics that end up in the black market. He said he was extremely wary of the Greenville center, “These are not respectable practices, to give out free narcotics for a month.”
The Senate originally sustained the governor’s veto two weeks ago, but several members later defected and overrode it a day later 27-11. The House also overruled the governor 112-1.