Georgia legislation aimed at reorganizing the Department of Human Resources passed on the last day of the session. The Governor immediately praised its passage, and the bill now awaits his signature.
Russ Toal, President of the Georgia Public Health Association, shared the following summary of the new legislation with GPHA members. The summary was prepared by Scott Maxwell of Mathews & Maxwell, Inc.
“As GPHA members will be speaking with colleagues and staff about the import of HB 228, I thought some bullet points might prove useful. The conference committee report passed on the last day of the session and the Governor put out a press release praising its passage moments later, so there is no doubt he will sign it. Here are the important points related to Public Health.
• The Division of Public Health moves from DHR to the Department of Community Health (which keeps its name).
• The bill permits DCH “to administer its operations in a manner so as to receive the maximum amount of federal financial participation available in expenditures of the department.”
• Payment for laboratory services is the responsibility of the individual who requests the services or the individual for whom they are performed. However, in this paragraph of the code only, “individual” will now be defined as “a natural person or his or her responsible health benefit policy or Title XVIII, XIX, or XXI of the federal Social Security Act of 1935.” Thus, the lab can bill Medicaid, Medicare, PeachCare, etc.
• From the bill . . . “Except for the Division of Public Health, the commissioner shall have the power to allocate and reallocate functions among the divisions within the department.”
• The Division of Public Health shall have a director appointed by the Governor who serves at the pleasure of the Governor.
• The director shall:
o Report to the Office of the Governor and to the Commissioner.
o Provide a written report of expenditures made for public health purposes in the prior fiscal year to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Lt. Governor no later than December 1 of each year (beginning January 1, 2010).
o Serve as chief liaison to county boards of health through their directors on matters related to operations and programmatic responsibilities. (Or, the director may designate a person to serve as the liaison.)
o Be authorized to convene one or more panels of experts to address various public health issues and may consult with experts on epidemiological and emergency preparedness issues.
• There is created the Advisory Council for Public Health to be composed of nine members appointed by the Governor who serve three-year terms. The council shall meet at least quarterly and advise the Division on all matters. “Resolutions passed by a majority of the council shall be considered by the Director of Public Health and the commissioner and may be considered by the DCH Board.”
• There is created a Public Health Commission on July 1, 2010, composed of nine members. Two each appointed by the Speaker and the Lt. Governor; Five appointed by the Governor. The purpose of the commission shall be to examine whether the interests of this state are best served with the Division of Public Health being a part of DCH, an attached agency, a completely separate agency or a part of some other organization. The commission reports by December 1, 2010 and stands abolished December 31, 2010.
• The Position of State Health Officer is created and shall be either the Commissioner of DCH or the Director of the Division of Public Health as designated by the Governor.
• The State Health Officer shall perform such health emergency preparedness and response duties as assigned by the Governor.
• The Commissioner of DCH is authorized to appoint a diabetes coordinator within the Division of Public Health. The Division of Public Health shall serve as the central repository for data related to the prevention and treatment of diabetes. (Sen. Renee Unterman had this in a separate bill, but added it to HB 228 during the process.)
• There are several places in the bill where Russ Toal inserted a word or phrase to more accurately describe what Public Health does. For example, as in a bullet above, “and response” was added after the words “emergency preparedness.” Other examples include: “and oral” was added after “dental.” “Prevent” was added before “detect and relieve.”
• Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Disease programs are moved to the newly created Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
• There is created the Suicide Prevention Program in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. “The Suicide Prevention Program shall coordinate with and receive technical assistance from epidemiologists and other staff of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Community Health to support the research and outreach efforts related to this program.”
• The Department of Human Resources becomes the Department of Human Services.”
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