Opioid Crisis

Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia. However, they are extremely dangerous when used incorrectly. Many Georgians have lost their lives caused by opioid overdose. In Georgia, within the last year, hospital emergency rooms have been inundated patients who have overdosed.

This crisis is constantly a reoccurring subject in the news. GHA is working with hospitals and state and federal agencies to develop strategies on saving lives. 


Opioid Legislation Update

Georgia State Legislation

SB 352 Presented

Sen. Unterman presented SB352 on Feb. 7, her health omnibus bill aimed at addressing the ongoing opioid crisis, for final passage. The members voted unanimously (53-0) to pass this bill by substitute. 

Senate Bill 352 filed

SB352 filed Wednesday, January 24, by Sen. Unterman is an omnibus bill containing 3 sections aimed at addressing the ongoing opioid crisis.

Section 1 imposes broad restrictions on health care providers making, soliciting or receiving any type of remuneration or kickback for patient referrals. This “anti-kickback” bill is similar in nature to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and contains criminal penalties for any violation. 

Section 2 requires the Governor to appoint a director of Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Related Disorders. It also establishes a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with creating a “coordinated and unified effort among state and local agencies to confront the state-wide addiction and substance abuse crisis.” 

Section 3 expands the definition of insurance fraud to include the billing of multi-substance drug tests separately for each type of drug tested. 

Federal Legislation

Hearing on "The Opioid Crisis: The Current Landscape and CMS Actions to Prevent Opioid Misuse"

On January 17, the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing focused on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ efforts to use data to identify Medicare Part D beneficiaries who are at risk of misusing opioids. The hearing also examined the tools CMS has available to limit overprescribing. Witnesses were Kimberly Brandt, CMS principal deputy administrator for operations; Gary Cantrell, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General; and Elizabeth Curda, director of health care at the Government Accountability Office. In addition, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs examined Medicaid and the opioid epidemic. Witnesses were Sam Adolphsen, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability; Otto Schalk, prosecuting attorney for Harrison County, IN; Emmanuel Tyndall, inspector general of Tennessee; David Hyman, M.D., of the Georgetown University Law Center; and Andrew Kolodny, M.D., co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.

Implementation of the Provision of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016

On Tuesday, January 23, the Drug Enforcement Administration published a final rule implementing a 2016 law allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants who meet certain requirements to prescribe and dispense drugs for the treatment of opioid use disorder, including for maintenance, detoxification, overdose reversal and relapse prevention. Previously only physicians could qualify to provide this medication-assisted treatment. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 expanded the category of eligible providers to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants until October 2021 to increase access for people in underserved areas. To qualify, nurse practitioners and physician assistants must be licensed under state law to prescribe certain controlled substances and complete at least 24 hours of initial training. If state law requires, they also must be supervised by or work in collaboration with a qualified physician.

GHA Holds Education Events

In December, GHA held two educational events related to what we can do to help with the opioid crisis. Presentations were given at Dorminy Medical Center and Wayne Memorial Hospital.

These presentations focused on understanding the measure definition for 'HRET 1c-Opioid Use.' GHA staff focused on what hospitals, physicians and other clinicians can do to improve the measure and address the opioid crisis in their communities.

GHA is hosting a webinar on February 20 from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. EST on "Addressing the Opioid Crisis - Opioids: What Can We Do?" GHA's own Lynne Hall will be speaking on the matter.

Click here to view the brochure for more information or click here to register.