Positive Legislative Development in the State of Georgia
Written by Stacey Pearce – GA AATOD Board Delegate
October 29, 2016
There is so much going on in our field throughout the country, and Georgia is no exception. As many know, the Georgia State Legislature passed a law that created a moratorium on Narcotic Treatment Programs (NTP is the terminology used by the Georgia Department of Community Health to refer to opioid treatment programs). This moratorium is for a period of one year and began July 1, 2016 and will end June 30, 2017. The law also created the Narcotic Study Commission to research and determine if there are specific problems within Georgia that have allowed what some see as a large number of clinics to open within our state in a short period of time. The Northwest corner of Georgia has seen significant growth in the number and size of the facilities located within the area. This prompted an outcry from some community members, which reached the ears of local lawmakers. The result of which is the current legislation involving the moratorium and study commission. The Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia have been fortunate enough to be involved in the process from the beginning with hopes to minimize the impact of the moratorium on medication assisted treatment patients within our State. OTPG is also working to ensure that safe and effective treatment is provided throughout all Georgia’s NTPs.
The Narcotic Study Commission met for the first time on October 11, 2016 in Ringgold, Georgia. Presenters at the meeting included: Melanie Simon with Healthcare Facility Regulation in the Georgia Department of Community Health, Cassandra Price in Department of Behavioral health and Developmental Disabilities, Jonathon Connell and Brook Etherington with Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia, Mark Peterson, MD and Jean Bonhomme, MD both Medical Directors at NTPs within Georgia, and Kristi Coroi, a patient advocate. The information provided by the presenters included opening and regulating NTPs in Georgia, history of MAT and the components of MAT in the clinic setting, review of all regulatory entities at state and federal level, the current opioid use epidemic, basic information about the disease of opioid use disorder, and how the medications used in MAT work in the brain to address the disease. The Study Commission members were also taken on a tour of a local NTP. From the comments and feedback during and after the clinic tour, which was the final agenda item, I believe the members found all the information to be useful and added to their understanding of MAT and what is going on in Georgia.
There is a second meeting of the Narcotic Study Commission scheduled for November 17. The Commission has invited Mark Parrino of AATOD to present information on MAT from a national perspective. This may include information concerning how moratoriums have impacted treatment in other states, different types of certificate of need or geographic locating of facilities utilized by other states, and potential other topics. Other presenters may include a patient advocate and a representative from a surrounding state to discuss how that state sites and opens NTPs. The agenda has not yet been set, aside from Mark’s presentation, so this could change. Upon the completion of the second meeting, the Committee should determine recommendations for the industry and provide them to 2the governor by the end of the year.