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Report: Developmentally disabled need better care

An independent reviewer reports that Georgia is failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who are moved from state hospitals to community group homes.

The reviewer, in a report dated March 23, says there is an “urgent need to ensure competent and sufficient health practitioner oversight of individuals who are medically fragile and require assistance with most aspects of their daily lives.”

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

The reviewer, Elizabeth Jones, notes in the report that two individuals with developmental disabilities died shortly after being moved from Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, which recently closed, to community settings.

The report also points out that state officials terminated three providers of services for poor quality of care.

Frank Berry, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, said Thursday in an interview with GHN that the agency has halted hospital discharges of people with developmental disabilities into community settings until improvements are made. full story

Commentary: A break for those with disabilities

“Supported employment’’ represents a valuable opportunity for someone with a disability.

It matches an individual with a job, and provides follow-up support and job coaching to help the worker thrive.

Kathy Keeley

Kathy Keeley

The Georgia Legislature, in its final days this year, is considering funding for supported employment services for young people with developmental disabilities.

In a new GHN Commentary, Kathy Keeley, executive director of All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD) explains how having a job can help a person with a disability, and why the Legislature should appropriate money for this purpose.

“Without this program, these students would likely finish high school, only to return home and sit on the couch, waiting until they qualify for a Medicaid waiver to pay for support services,’’ she writes.

Here is a link to Keeley’s Commentary


Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

Busy day for health bills at Capitol

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.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingPeake’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

Community service boards may get new oversight

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.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingThe 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 change in services and a Medicaid pay hike

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.

clipboardClyde 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

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