SB346 allows the State Board of Veterinary Medicine to contract with a professional health program to provide rehabilitative services to impaired veterinarians.  Additionally, the measure creates a seat on the state board for a veterinary technician. SB346 comes at the request of the GVMA and Sen. Ellis Black, R-Valdosta.

The GVMA Resilience & Well-Being Committee lobbied for veterinarians to be included in the Georgia Physician’s Health Program (GPHP) which provides support for physicians who are seeking intervention for substance abuse disorders.  GPHP currently works with physicians, physician assistants, and respiratory therapists licensed in Georgia.

“The GPHP does not provide treatment but oversees the treatment and recovery pathway.  Their oversight includes referral for services that support the recovery processes such financial counseling, family and marriage counseling services, as well as long-term recovery follow-up.” – Dr. Laura Smallwood, Resilience & Well-Being Committee Chair

The GPHP provides a “safe haven” for healthcare professionals seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders. The individual signs an agreement not to practice and must follow the program set forth.  Following completion, the individual’s readiness to return to work is evaluated before the physician can return to work.  90% of physicians who have sought recovery services through the Georgia PHP have been able to return to work.

“Statistically, there are 50-60 licensed veterinarians in the State of Georgia who are impaired and in need of treatment each year.  Unfortunately, there is no current system in place that offers both a crisis intervention structure and a safe harbor for those individuals who are willing to seek treatment.” – Dr. Justin Toth, President-Elect, GVMA

The next steps include the State Board working on a Request for Proposal to go out to providers.  The law becomes effective on January 1, 2021.

Objectives of GPHP

  1. To educate regarding mental health and substance abuse among Georgia Healthcare professionals
  2. Promote prevention and early detection of these conditions
  3. Provide intervention for those individuals who need to enter medical care for mental health or substance abuse issues
  4. Monitor the status and safety of program participants
  5. Coordinate with and maintain the trust of the participant’s regulatory agency to balance the participant’s need for care with public safety

(excepts taken from the Fall 2018 edition of The GA Vet)