Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

by Robin Kemp

In a rate show of bipartisan support for something other than UGA football, state lawmakers are announcing a mental health access bill at the Gold Dome this morning.

The omnibus bill, sponsored by House Speaker David Ralston and cosponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-82, Decatur) and Rep. Todd Jones (R- 25, South Forsyth), would expand access to mental health services.

It also would require parity for mental health coverage–in other words, treating mental health coverage like physical health coverage.

increase the number of mental health professionals in the state; require parity in coverage; give first responders help when they’re called into a mental health crisis; and improve data and transparency in the sector.

Ralston told GPB’s Bill Nigut Tuesday, “This is an issue that’s not Republican or Democrat. It’s not urban, rural or suburban. It’s not black or white. It’s not rich or poor. I mean, this cuts across every strata of our society here in Georgia and everywhere. And it’s also an issue I feel very passionate about.”

Several other mental health bills have been introduced this session, including one by Rep. Sandra Scott, HB 853, that would address defendants with mental health issues who plead guilty or nolo contendere.

In an online forum last week, Scott said jail was no place for people with mental illness.

The Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, which issued its first report last January, warned of numerous gaps that need addressing to improve Georgia’s mental health care.

A big one is telemedicine for rural areas, which GPB’s Ellen Eldridge noted on “Political Rewind” is related to broadband availability.

 

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