The Opioid Crisis

State Opioid Authority/ History of the STR Grant

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) serves as the opioid authority for the state of Georgia. This role is patient-focused and carries the responsibilities of oversight of the central registry and limited oversight of all opioid treatment programs statewide. It also involves providing clinical guidance and protocols to include evidence-based treatment, maintaining a plan for continuity of care, and working closely with licensing agencies to approve new opioid treatment facilities. In 2017, DBHDD was awarded a two-year grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), called the State Targeted Response (STR) to the opioid crisis—a funding opportunity for state behavioral health authorities. In the first year, DBHDD received $11.8 million to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to treatment, reducing unmet treatment need, and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities.

There were many successes in year 1 of the STR grant. Below is a summary of the successes in each area.

Prevention: Prevention staff and contractors trained 312 first responders in naloxone administration and distributed 424 naloxone kits to those trained.  Naloxone trainings also were conducted throughout communities, leading to 3,255 citizens being trained and 4,851 kits being distributed throughout Georgia, which resulted in 435 self-reported overdose reversals.  Two public service announcements (PSA) were developed that focused on Georgia’s Good Samaritan law and naloxone availability.  These PSAs have been played in more than 100 movie theatres statewide.  The Office of Behavioral Health Prevention also contracted four providers to implement SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) model in regions 2, 3, 5, and 6.

Treatment: The Office of Addictive Diseases contracted with nine providers for treatment – including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – of uninsured and underinsured Georgians who have opioid use disorders.  Through this initiative, 450 individuals have received treatment.

Recovery: Recovery had three initiatives being performed by three providers.  One is a peer warm line that allows those in or seeking recovery to call to share their struggles and successes with trained peers who have been through similar experiences.  Another initiative is recovery coaching that covered two hospital emergency departments.  The last initiative is the education and site visit revision of recovery residences to align with the various pathways to recovery.

STR Year 2

The Office of Behavioral Health Prevention will double naloxone distribution to first responders and will release two additional PSAs that will promote self-advocacy and safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs.  It will also continue to fund SPF providers.

The Office of Addictive Diseases will continue funding programs for MAT services and add new providers in regions 1, 3, and 6 to address the treatment need.

Recovery initiatives will continue in year two with the addition of recovery coaches in two additional hospital emergency departments and funding of three recovery community organizations in regions 2, 4, and 6 to provide support to those seeking recovery.

Opioid Taskforce/ Georgia’s Opioid Response Strategic Plan

DBHDD has been engaged in work to address the opioid epidemic through active collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health and a jointly funded position.  In addition, DBHDD participated in the launch of a Statewide Opioid Taskforce by Attorney General Carr in October 2017.  After this initial meeting to bring partners and agencies to the table, the Attorney General’s Office, DBHDD, Department of Community Health (DCH), and DPH jointly hosted a working meeting in December 2017 to build dialogue and collaboration for developing strategies to address Georgia’s growing opioid crisis.  To date, over 200 people from more than 50 organizations have participated in a series of meetings to inform Georgia’s strategic plan by identifying key goals and objectives, as well as measures of success, based on the identified priority areas below:

  • Prevention Education
  • Maternal Substance Use
  • Data and Surveillance
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
  • Treatment and Recovery
  • Control and Enforcement

DBHDD staff serve as co-chairs of the Prevention Education and Treatment and Recovery workgroups.

Georgia’s Statewide Opioid Strategic Plan Summit will be held on August 21, 2018, at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) in Forsyth.  At this summit, the “mature” draft of the plan will be unveiled.

Addiction Recovery Support Centers

DBHDD appropriated new state funding for $4 million to support the implementation of Addiction Recovery Support Centers statewide.  DBHDD accepted proposals in May 2018 and is in the process of finalizing contracts for this important initiative.  Addiction Recovery Support Centers are peer-led environments that offer a set of non-clinical activities that engage, educate, and support individuals and families to make life changes necessary to establish, maintain, and enhance recovery (health and wellness) from substance use disorders.  The recovery activities are community-based services for individuals with a substance use disorder; and consist of activities that promote recovery, self-determination, self-advocacy, well-being, and independence.  Activities are individualized, recovery-focused, and based on a relationship that supports people’s ability to promote their recovery.  Activities include social support, linkage to and coordination among other service providers, eliminating barriers to independence, and continued recovery.