The sponsor of a medical marijuana bill said Monday after a three-hour legislative hearing that the proposal must get significant revisions before it can move forward in the Georgia General Assembly.
State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was unsure of the specific changes needed to House Bill 885 that would give Georgia children, who have no other treatment options, the opportunity to receive therapeutic cannabidiol to treat their seizures.
Peake’s efforts, though, drew support from the vast majority of people who packed the hearing room, including parents who tearfully testified their children suffer multiple seizures a day.
Physicians who testified at the House Health and Human Services Committee hearing agreed that the therapeutic oil, which does not have the psychoactive qualities of typical marijuana, has proved effective in providing relief from seizures, but needs more thorough study.
The legislation is scheduled for another hearing Thursday.
The medical marijuana testimony was part of a busy health care day at the Capitol, as lawmakers continued to work hard to move key legislation in a compressed time period. This year’s legislative session is a short one because party primaries will be held unusually early.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday approved a revamp of the state’s child welfare services; a bill to increase monitoring of the state’s community service boards; and a proposal that would allow public health officials to inform medical providers of a patient’s HIV status if the patient is not in treatment. full story
The 26 community boards that offer services to Georgians with behavioral health problems and developmental disabilities would face new oversight under a state Senate bill introduced this week.
The legislation follows recent trouble connected with one such community service board in Coastal Georgia. A September state report on Gateway Behavioral Health Services last year said its operation was riddled with financial irregularities and management problems.
The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) took control of Gateway last year, firing its CEO and asking its chairman to resign.
The department indicated to Georgia Health News on Wednesday that the bill is not so much about Gateway as about trying to strengthen the statewide public safety-net system and bring consistency, accountability and transparency to it.
“The bulk of these ideas preceded Gateway,’’ said Andrew Johnson, legislative director for DBHDD.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Wednesday on Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), a floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal in the Senate. No vote was taken. full story
A state health agency board gave initial approval Thursday to offering care coordination services to 450,000 Medicaid beneficiaries who have disabilities or are elderly.
The proposal for the “aged, blind and disabled’’ population comes as part of the state’s move to improve care and reduce spending. This beneficiary category represents roughly 28 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Georgia, but it accounts for 60 percent of the overall costs of the program.
Clyde Reese, the Department of Community Health commissioner, also announced that Georgia primary care physicians are scheduled to start receiving a pay hike for Medicaid services Nov. 1, as part of a provision in the Affordable Care Act.
For two years, it will pay family physicians, internists and pediatricians the same for Medicaid services as they receive under Medicare. The pay hike for eligible doctors is expected to be retroactive back to Jan. 1.
Georgia is among the last wave of states to implement the raise. The delay here had frustrated physician groups, which said there was already financial pressure on doctors serving largely Medicaid patients. This will be the first Medicaid pay raise for Georgia doctors in more than a decade. full story
A report on a troubled health services organization in Coastal Georgia says its operation has been riddled with financial irregularities and management problems.
Gateway Behavioral Health Services, which has an annual budget of more than $30 million, has a deficit of close to $4 million. It also had $1.4 million in accounts payable at the end of August, according to a report written by the organization’s newly appointed manager.
“Most alarming was the fact that the staffing company that employs almost all of Gateway’s direct service staff was owed $1.2 million, or three bi-weekly payrolls, placing them at risk for interruption in its ability to deliver services,’’ said the Sept. 17 report by David Crews
Next month, Gateway will close a St. Marys bottling plant that is losing money, said the report by Crews to the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). The plant employs people with behavioral health problems and developmental disabilities.
Crews, in an interview with GHN on Friday, said Gateway “has some real cash flow issues.’’
Crews was put in charge of Gateway in July, when DBHDD took control of the organization, firing its CEO and asking its chairman to resign.
Gateway had previously sued DBHDD, and the attorney who filed that lawsuit told Georgia Health News recently that the state seized control of Gateway and fired the CEO in retaliation for the suit. The lawsuit alleges the state owes Gateway more than $1 million in reduced payments. full story
Strong-arm tactics. Improper use of state funds. Retaliation over a lawsuit.
Those are some of the accusations flying around a sharp-edged conflict between a state agency and a Coastal Georgia health services organization.
But it’s not been just talk. The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) recently took control of Gateway Behavioral Health Services, firing its CEO and asking its chairman to resign.
“There are indications that Gateway no longer has the fiscal ability to continue to provide contracted services,’’ said a July 18 letter from Frank Berry, the DBHDD commissioner, to Gateway. The letter cited a Gateway deficit of $3.9 million in fiscal 2012.
“In addition, we have received numerous allegations of mismanagement that at this stage warrant the department’s intervention,’’ the letter added. “Furthermore, it would appear that Gateway has potentially misused state and federal funds.’’
Gateway’s lawyer, however, says the state’s seizure of control and firing of the CEO “without cause, reason or explanation” are retaliation for a lawsuit that Gateway has filed against DBHDD. The suit alleges the state owes Gateway more than $1 million in reduced payments. full story