Georgia Recovery Community: Mental Health Care Reform Package is Historic

Cindy Morley

Friday, February 4th, 2022

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The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse came out Monday with full support of new legislation calling for massive mental health care reform across Georgia, and is asking members of the General Assembly to follow the lead of Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and pass HB 1013 without any changes. The bill which would ensure mental health parity – the organization’s top legislative priority this year. On the same day, mental health care reform gained even more strength when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan unveiled a bipartisan plan that promotes collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and certified behavioral health specialists through the establishment of a statewide co-responder model.

“The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse fully supports The Mental Health Parity Act in the strongest possible terms as introduced by Speaker David Ralston. Parity is the single most important policy issue for the Georgia Recovery Community,” said Neil Campbell, Executive Director, Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. “The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse encourages the General Assembly to embrace The Mental Health Parity Act as introduced and pass it with alacrity.”

“The Mental Health Parity Act is a historic bill,” Campbell added. “The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse joins our partners in the Georgia Mental Health Policy partnership in calling on both the House and Senate to pass The Mental Health Parity Act as introduced with zero changes. The families of Georgia who have been impacted by addiction and mental illness are active, organized, and expect your full support for The Mental Health Parity Act.”

Ralston’s HB 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.

“The Mental Health Parity Act will save lives providing support and hope for Georgia families. It is the most important legislation ever introduced in the General Assembly in support of the Georgia Recovery Community. It is vital it pass both the House and Senate as introduced without amendment,” said Jeff Breedlove, Chief of Policy Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.

“Let me provide clarity, the version of The Mental Health Parity Act which has been introduced by Speaker Ralston is the compromise bill. Speaker Ralston and Chairman Kevin Tanner have included the Georgia Mental Health Policy partnership in this process. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. This language is supported by millions of Georgians who are involved and active in supporting peer led support for mental health and addiction policy and reform,” said Breedlove.

“The time for excuses and politics is over. There is no excuse for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 to not be fully enforced in Georgia. There is no provision in state law which allows the state to not fully enforce federal law – now is time for the General Assembly to say no to the Special Interest lobbyists in the Georgia Insurance Community and stand with Georgia families. Enforce the 2008 Federal Parity law and save lives, support families, strengthen communities, support first responders, and save tax-payer dollars by passing The Mental Health Parity Act as introduced,” said Breedlove.

Also on Monday, Duncan announced his plans to address public safety and mental health care. According to Duncan, the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act” will allow for the implementation of a co-responder model that combines the knowledge of law enforcement and mental health professionals to de-escalate behavioral health emergencies.

“Facilitating working partnerships between mental health experts and first responders provides a tailored response to de-escalating emergencies,” said Duncan. “This measure takes a proactive approach to expand mental health resources by not only establishing an emergency response partnership, but by creating a model that includes a follow-up system with individuals and identifies those currently incarcerated that may be treated more effectively in a behavioral health facility.”