JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Justice Institute filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Mississippi on Wednesday. The defendant in the case is State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

The lawsuit claims that a nearly 40-year-old law makes it illegal to start new home health agencies in Mississippi. Mississippi enacted a ban in 1981 that put a stop to issuing new certificates of need or “CON” for home health agencies, according to advocates from the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

“Getting a certificate of need has nothing to do with proving that new facility will be safe, sanitary or high quality,” said Attorney Seth Robbins.

CON programs require a healthcare facility to seek a health planning agency’s approval based on a set of criteria and community need.

The plaintiff, Charles Slaughter, has been a physical therapist for 45 years, and he runs two clinics. He said the need is the greatest in the south Jackson community. He hopes this lawsuit can pave the way to him among other entrepreneurs to provide in home services.

“We could see them in the home and then transition them to the clinic, and it would be a more seamless process for the patients,” said Slaughter.

The effectiveness of CON programs is a heavily debated topic. Many states consider them as one way to control healthcare costs and increase access to care. Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C. operate a con program with wide variation by state.

The Department of Health stated the certificate of need process plays a central role in planning the state’s health facilities, based on need for services, location size and other factories. The government has 21 days to respond after being served.