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Georgia lawmakers promised to make mental health a priority. Did they?

Crossover, the day a bill must pass through one chamber, has come and gone. Here’s a look at what’s still being discussed in the final weeks of the session.
Credit: AP

ATLANTA — The Georgia Legislature has promised to make mental health and the state's response to it a priority this session. 

Here's a look at what bills made it through Crossover Day and what's still being discussed in the final weeks of the legislative session.

The Georgia Senate passed three measures related to improving the state’s response to mental illness. 

The largest piece of legislation is HB 1013, the mental health reform bill sponsored by Speaker of the House David Ralston.

SB342 requires commercial insurance to provide equal coverage for mental health care as physical care.

SB 403 requires community service boards to establish a protocol for co-responder teams and work with willing law enforcement to set them up. Co-responder teams usually involve a police officer and a therapist to provide an alternate response to a crisis when someone calls 911.

SB 610 creates an audit to look at the reimbursement rates for community-based services to determine if Medicaid is paying enough to recruit and retain providers.

The House also passed HB 1069 to create a new process for licensure of adult mental health providers.

The Senate’s fight for mental health parity and use of co-responder teams are also part of HB 1013, the House’s 80-page reform legislation. The difference is in the approach. That will certainly be part of the discussion as the bill makes its way through committee.

While at least eight other bills The Reveal was tracking related to mental health did not make it past Crossover Day, several of the concepts are part of HB 1013, such as crisis intervention training for law enforcement and outpatient treatment programs. So while the specific bills are dead this session, the issues live on.

The appropriations process also continues. The House passed the budget, allocating funds for new crisis beds, therapeutic foster care to prevent abandonment, therapy for teens living in hotels, and mental health accountability courts. Advocates are now watching to see if the Senate keeps that money in the budget.

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