Georgia Mental Health Legislation Watch
As we shared in early January, mental health legislation is in the works for the 2022 Georgia legislative session. We began to see bipartisan fruition of this recently with the introduction of House Bill 1013 which is sponsored by State Representatives Todd Jones (R) and Mary Margaret Oliver (D). Bill cosponsors include House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R) and Minority Leader James Beverly (D). The bill has been assigned to the Georgia House Health & Human Services Committee. Per a recent press release, “House Bill 1013 increases client access to care, ensures mental health parity for providers and clients, strengthens workforce development initiatives, expands transparency and accountability for consumers, and enhances resources and tools for frontline responders and communities.”
In 2021, Georgia lawmakers added $56 million to the state’s mental health budget. With the pending legislation, more funds are expected to be added this year as HB1013 seeks parity in pay for mental health providers compared to other health-care providers, strengthens workforce development initiatives aimed at addressing a shortage of mental-health workers and looks to help police departments forced to serve as first responders to calls involving people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.
Mental health statistics are alarming in Georgia, with significant increase since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, addressed members of a House committee in December 2021 and informed them that Georgia’s mental health crisis hotline has experienced a 24% increase in calls, texts and chats since the pandemic began. Fitzgerald further noted that mental health screenings have soared by 426% and Georgia experienced a 36% increase in drug overdose deaths between April 2020 and April 2021. At a recent press conference following the bill’s introduction, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) said “I am tired of telling desperate and hurting families that we have no treatment options in Georgia.” He further stated, ““Georgia is a great state. Passing this landmark bill will also mean we’re a good state.”
HB103 is anticipated to have an easy route through the House of Representatives. If it is passed by the House, it will then go on to the Georgia Senate for their vote.
What can YOU do?
Contact your state elected officials and encourage them to support mental health legislation. When applicable, share personal stories as an affirmation of the need for greater mental health access and provision in the state of Georgia. Additionally, you can share with others in your network (such as social media) and encourage them to contact elected officials as well.Click here to find information for Georgia Representatives and click here to find information for Georgia Senators.