OTPG Helps Pass Legislation at the Capitol

A summary of our recent involvement in the 2015-2016 Georgia legislative session. Please feel free to contact our executive board with any questions you might have about our involvement at the Capitol.

The Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia began working with a lobbyist early in February of this year after our board and members determined that it was necessary for our interests to be represented at the capitol during this legislative session. It was brought to our attention that lawmakers from the northwest part of the state were planning to draft legislation that would directly impact our modality of treatment due to the large increase of program openings in the area, the increase in methadone–involved overdoses, and an abundant supply of methadone on the street.

After interviewing a number of lobbyists, the executive board hired the group that we thought would most effectively represent our interests. Shortly thereafter, we were in contact with the legislators who were intent on passing legislation on our industry. The executive board was able to participate in the bill writing process and much of the content and verbiage in the bill came from OTPG. The result of this process is “SB 40 2Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Programs; provide for a moratorium on the issuance of new licenses to narcotic treatment programs”. You can find the bill here: http://goo.gl/jsEjOz.

In brief, this bill calls for a temporary moratorium on the issuance of new narcotic treatment program licenses from June 1st, 2016 through June 30th, 2017, as well as the creation of a study commission to examine the state of the industry in Georgia and to address the lack of regulation enforcement as well as flaws in the application process.

Here is a snapshot of the time line of events: SB 402 was dropped on February 18, The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee favorable voted on the bill on February 25, sending it to the Senate who unanimously passed the bill on February 29, crossover day. On March 10, the House Regulated Industries committee favorably voted on HB 402 sending it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. On March 15, The House of Representatives voted to pass HB 402 unanimously pending an amendment from the Senate, which was later agreed on March 24. On April 4, the Senate sent the bill to the governor’s
office for signing. Members of OTPG were present at the Capitol during this entire process to lend support, offer guidance, and answer questions. This was no small amount of work.

OTPG realizes that some of the content in this bill may be controversial, especially the temporary moratorium on new narcotic treatment program licenses. However, we feel that the exponential growth of our industry over the past 8 years is not compatible with current state of our Georgia regulators. We view this combination as a threat to the public and a threat to the integrity of our field. Our efforts in the legislature serve to protect our patients from poorly–run programs and to protect virtuous programs from punitive legislation being passed, which without our efforts, we believe would have taken place. Our ears are open to any questions or concerns you might have about this process. If you are not a member of OTPG but would like your voice to be heard, please consider joining our organization. OTPG can and does make a difference in our industry and we welcome you to be a part of it.

Upon the writing of this article, SB 402 has not been signed by the governor and is not yet law, however we anticipate the bill to be signed by the end of April.

Editors Note: On April 26, 2016 The governor signed SB 402 into law.