For a state that normally prides itself on numbers — like the ones that show it’s the best place to do business in the country year after year — the rankings on mental health care issues are embarrassing and reflect a lack of commitment to helping those who suffer from many mental health problems.
The legislative package defended by Ralston addresses the issue from several angles.
Among other things, it obliges insurance companies to cover mental illnesses in the same way as they do for other illnesses; requires insurers with whom the state contracts for programs involving low-income and disabled residents to spend a minimum amount of money on care by limiting profit margins; provides incentives to involve more people in providing mental health care; increases the options available to first responders in handling mental health calls; and gives more options to the courts.
We will hear more about the overall effort to change mental health care as it moves through the legislative process, but there are already indications that the legislative package is likely to enjoy strong support. bipartisanship, a real rarity in the modern political world. Governor Brian Kemp also endorsed the effort and indicated he would support its passage.
What remains to be resolved is what all this will cost and the sources from which the money for funding will be allocated. But the state coffers are very healthy and the money is there.
Given the state’s mishandling of the mental health care crisis, no single reform effort will solve all the problems that need to be addressed. But the pending proposal is a powerful effort to start the conversation and focus on the urgent need to do something.
The mental health umbrella is enormous, covering everything from drug addiction and alcoholism to depression, suicidal tendencies to a host of psychiatric diagnoses.
Georgia does not have enough care facilities, which means those who need institutional care are often warehoused rather than properly treated.
It does not have enough properly trained mental health professionals (the same MHA study found the state to be last in mental health professionals per capita).
It doesn’t have enough training or options for first responders, who are often called to the scene of a mental health crisis only to find there’s little they can do to help.
The system is more than broken. The legislative package that has been introduced is a powerful first step towards redress. We can’t wait to see something happen.