To borrow a quote from House Speaker David Ralston, “Hope won” when HB 1013 – also known as the Mental Health Parity Act – passed through the Georgia General Assembly with a unanimous vote of 54-0 in the Senate and 166-0 in the House. A shining example that the legislative process really does work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that bill long before it hit the Senate floor for final passage. Three years ago, we formally acknowledged the fact that Georgia is facing a mental health and addicted disease crisis, and in 2019, the General Assembly formed the Behavioral Health Reform Innovation Committee. The committee – made up of experts that included medical providers, law enforcement officials, educators, judges, behavioral health advocates and members of the State House and Senate – was charged with conducting a comprehensive review of behavioral health in Georgia.
To help change perceptions, aid in our understanding of mental health and do the important work of revamping a broken health care system, I am proud and honored to serve as a member of the Georgia State Senate’s Mental Health Caucus. I commend Speaker Ralston and Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver and Todd Jones for filing HB1013. After that, one of the primary focuses for me and my fellow caucus members was to ensure that the bill was the best it could be once it left the Senate floor. I believe we accomplished that goal.
Encapsulating our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, mental health is integral to determining how we think, feel and act on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the U.S. Of the more than 10.7 million people who live in Georgia, an estimated 10% have been diagnosed with a mental illness. And those statistics don’t account for our neighbors who are undiagnosed due to fear, lack of access to good doctors or perceived stigmas. Add to that those who suffer from substance abuse and addicted disease, and I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find a Georgian whose life hasn’t been touched in one way or another by the ongoing mental health crisis.
Sadly – even though federally mandated – not all insurance providers view mental health disorders through the same lens as physical illness, making it difficult for those suffering mental health or substance abuse disorders to receive the level of care they need.
Marking one of the most important bipartisan bills of the 2021-2022 session, the 76-page Georgia Mental Health Parity Act seeks to provide comprehensive reforms for our state’s mental health care system and give Georgians struggling with mental illness and substance abuse the resources they need. Here are just a few of the bill’s most impactful measures:
Now that HB 1013 has been signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, it’s important to note that it won’t solve the mental health crisis. Georgia currently ranks near the bottom in the nation for access to mental health care. It’s my hope that the passage of HB 1013 will go a long way in starting the process for making Georgia the best state for mental health services. Stay tuned to my blog for the latest strides being made to better support Georgians contending with mental illness. If you have questions or suggestions, I invite you to reach out to me at 678.583.4865, email@example.com or through my social media pages: @StricklandforGA on Twitter, @StricklandforGA on Facebook or @StricklandforGA on Instagram. To learn more about me and other hot button issues, please visit www.StricklandforGeorgia.com.
In 2023 the Georgia State Senate District 17 will encompass parts of Walton, Newton, Henry, and Morgan with over 150,000 registered voters. Brian Strickland entered his third full term in the Georgia Senate in 2021. Brian, his wife Lindsay, and their two children reside in McDonough, GA. Through Brian’s leadership position at the capitol where he fights for District 17, and all of Georgia, he has impacted Georgia for the better through various executed actions. Not only did Brian support the First Responder bill which aids police, firefighter, and EMS personnel but he was a key player in the passing of the Georgia Criminal Justice reform bills and Georgia Surprise Medical bills. Above and beyond that, Brian labored to bring funding to Southern Crescent Technical College making it one of the top technical schools in Georgia and is constantly raising the bar in the fight against human trafficking.