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 Symposium August 13

Augusta University will partner with the Compass Practice Transformation Network to host the “Working Together to Combat the Opioid Epidemic” meeting on Monday, Aug. 13 at 7 a.m. and noon.

The event will be held in the Augusta University Lansing B. Lee Sr. Auditoria Center,
1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912 

Breakout sessions will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. when attendees can sign up for the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) or submit questions to subject matter experts.

Featured speakers:

  • Patrice Harris, MD, MA, president-elect of the American Medical Association
  • Sheila Pierce, MPA, CLSSGB, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health Opioid Program Coordinator and PDMP
Registration is not required and there is no charge to attend this event.

House Passes Bills to Address Opioid Crisis

The House of Representatives has approved 20 more bills to address the opioid crisis, including five supported by the AHA.


Among the AHA-supported bills:

  • H.R. 5797, as amended, would allow states to receive federal matching funds for up to 30 days per year for services provided to adult Medicaid beneficiaries with an opioid use disorder in an Institution for Mental Disease, and expands treatment coverage to individuals suffering from cocaine use disorder; and
  • H.R. 6082 would align 42 CFR Part 2 regulations with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to allow health care providers to responsibly share substance use disorder treatment information.

"The House of Representatives today passed two significant, AHA-supported bills that would help hospitals and health systems provide improved care to patients with substance use disorders," AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said in a statement. "America's hospitals and health systems remain on the frontlines of the fight against the opioid crisis and continue to provide the safest and highest quality care for patients. We look forward to consideration of these bipartisan bills in the Senate, and we urge all members of the Senate to support them."


The other AHA-supported bills would:

  • Require state Children's Health Insurance Programs to cover mental health benefits (H.R. 3192);
  • Require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to establish an action plan to address the opioid crisis (H.R. 5590); and
  • Require CMS to award grants to curb outlier opioid prescribers under the Medicare prescription drug benefit and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans (H.R. 5796).

Other approved bills that incorporate AHA-supported provisions of interest to hospitals and health systems include:

  • H.R. 5774, which would require CMS to publish guidance for hospitals on pain management and opioid use disorder prevention strategies for Medicare beneficiaries, and convene a technical expert panel to recommend hospital quality measures relating to opioids and opioid use disorders; and
  • H.R. 5775, which would prohibit including pain management questions in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey unless the questions address the risks of opioid use and the availability of non-opioid alternatives.

The House also is expected to vote later this week on H.R. 6, legislation that will serve as the Senate vehicle for many of the House bills and includes a number of AHA-supported provisions.


In a statement last night, the White House expressed support for H.R. 5797, H.R. 6082 and H.R. 6.

CMS Issues Guidance on Approaches to Crisis

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services On June 11 issued guidance on designing state approaches to covering treatment services for Medicaid-eligible infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. "Through discussions with states, we have recognized their growing challenge in providing treatment services to the expanding number of infants with NAS," said Tim Hill, acting director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. "We have also recognized that states may not be fully aware of available options under Medicaid that can play a critical role in the care of these infants, as well as the limitations on Medicaid coverage." In addition, CMS issued a letter to state Medicaid directors on funding authorities that may support health information technology efforts to address the opioid crisis. 

CDC Offering Free Training Series

In 2016, almost 62 million American patients had at least one prescription for opioids filled or refilled. The average number of opioid prescriptions per patient was 3.5, and the average days of supply per prescription was 18 days. Taking opioids for longer periods of time or in higher doses increases the risk of addiction, overdose, and death. The CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain provides recommendations for safer and more effective prescribing of opioids for chronic pain in patients 18 and older in outpatient settings outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.

COCA Call Webinar Series

CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) partnered with CDC’s Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) and the University of Washington to present a webinar series about the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. This seven-part series is intended to use a data-driven approach to help providers choose the most effective pain treatment options and improve the safety of opioid prescribing for chronic pain. The primary objective is to provide informative, case-based content that will demonstrate and instruct participants on how the 12 recommendations of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain can be incorporated and applied in a primary care practice setting.

GA Attorney General, CVS Announce New Rx Disposal Locations

Attorney General Chris Carr and CVS Health announced at a press conference on June 6 the company’s plans to create drug-disposal collection points at 24 CVS Pharmacy stores in Georgia. CVS Health is installing these safe medication disposal units at 750 locations nationwide. This initiative complements Attorney General Carr’s efforts to reduce the amount of unused and unneeded prescription medications lingering in Georgia households.

“Unfortunately, our very own medicine cabinets can be a conduit for opioid misuse,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We have to continue to forge innovative partnerships to strengthen our response to the opioid crisis, and CVS Health’s new initiative in Georgia is a great example of that type of collaboration. They want to make it easier than ever before to safely dispose of any unused, expired prescription drugs, getting them out of the hands of those who might otherwise abuse them.”

“CVS Health is dedicated to addressing and preventing opioid abuse in the communities we serve here in Georgia and across the country,” said Brian Bosnic, Division Vice President of CVS Pharmacy. “Expanding CVS Pharmacy’s in-store safe medication disposal program is one of the many initiatives we support to fulfill that commitment and our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the body’s opioid receptors including natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids. Doctors prescribe them, typically in pill form, to help patients with severe or chronic pain. When they’re taken as directed by a medical professional, they’re relatively safe and can be beneficial. But there is always a risk of addiction, and that risk increases greatly when they are misused.

“Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic is impacting every corner of our state, and Macon-Bibb County is no exception,” said Senator John F. Kennedy. “CVS Health is working to place safe disposal options in Georgia, so that, no matter where you are, you can find a location near you. This is a great step forward as we continue working together to strengthen our state’s plan to curb opioid misuse in our communities.”

In fact, data from 2016 shows that 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids. This statistic illustrates why it is vital to safely dispose of unneeded and expired prescriptions. The Office of the Attorney General maintains an interactive Drug Take Back Map as part of the state’s comprehensive, statewide communications campaign, Dose of Reality. CLICK HERE to find a location near you. CVS Health also donates drop boxes to law enforcement entities in need. Currently, they sponsor 23 locations at sheriff’s offices or police departments in Georgia and others can apply to receive a unit here

New Prescribing Requirements Effective July 1

Beginning July 1, all prescribers with a DEA number in Georgia will be required to check the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) before prescribing opiates or cocaine derivatives listed as a Schedule II drug or benzodiazepines. The PDMP can help eliminate duplicative prescribing and overprescribing of controlled substances and provide a prescriber or pharmacist with critical information regarding a patient’s controlled substance prescription history and protect patients at risk of abuse.

Under the new law, prescribers may register two delegates (staff without a DEA number) per shift or rotation to check the PDMP and enter prescription information on his or her behalf. Prescribers and delegates must be separately registered to access the PDMP. To register as a prescriber or a delegate, click here.

Appriss – PMP Aware is the data analytics system that Georgia uses for its PDMP. They have prepared a “How To” video and written instructions to assist you with using the PDMP. The information will help you log in, reset your password and navigate the system.

GHA and DPH encourage you to watch the video, review the instructions and log in and search patient records to become familiar with the PDMP before July 1. Click here for the official memo from the Department of Public Health.

If you need additional help or if you have questions regarding the Georgia PDMP, please call 404-463-0772 or send an email.

Opioid Treatment Grants Announced

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is accepting applications for $196 million to treat opioid use disorders through one of its grant programs. The new funding will expand access to medication-assisted treatment and recovery support services to people with opioid use disorder, SAMHSA said. Eligibility is limited to the states – and public and private nonprofit organizations in the states – with the highest rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin and prescription opioids per capita and includes those with the most dramatic increases for heroin and prescription opioids, as identified by SAMHSA's 2015 Treatment Episode Data Set. 

Opioid Overdose Deaths Continue to Climb

An estimated 46,041 Americans died from opioid overdoses between October 2016 and October 2017, a 15% increase from the prior 12-month period, according to provisional data released May 16 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Total overdose deaths from opioids, cocaine and psychostimulants rose an estimated 12% to 68,400. The data include national and state-level estimates by drug category.

GHA to Host Opioid-related Programs

GHA will host two webinars this summer related to opioids. The first program, Understanding and Getting a Handle on the Opioid Crisis at Work, will be held on June 19 with Janette Levy-Frisch presenting. Another program titled Safe Opioid Use, IV Medication, Blood and Medication Administration Requirements is scheduled for July 26 with Sue Dill Calloway presenting.