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Georgia House Speaker aims to improve mental health crisis problems in law enforcement

Lawmakers unveiled a bill to address access to care for mental health and substance abuse.

MACON, Ga. — According to Mental Health America, the state of Georgia is ranked last for mental health care. 

However, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston wants to improve the care and treatment these individuals face.  

River Edge Behavioral Health's Director of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic and Outpatient Services, Ashley Allen, agrees that the state should do more to help those who need treatment and are in the hands of law enforcement.

"They don't necessarily have the same level of training as a licensed clinical social worker or a professional counselor even," said Allen.

Allen said that partnering with law enforcement agencies during a mental health crisis incident is important. She also said that law enforcement get some training on dealing with these types of incidents, but not at the same level as a licensed social worker or counselor.

According to America's Health Ranking, low-income, rural, and Black and Hispanic communities are less likely to have access to mental health care.

While Allen was not shocked that Georgia was ranked last in mental health, she's glad that House Speaker David Ralston is bringing more attention to it.

Towaliga Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams knows all too well about the mental health court system.

He said that while Georgia needs improvements, its courts are doing some things right.

"That's one thing I think Georgia does right, is accountability courts -- we have drug courts, we have mental health courts with veterans' courts, and I was an assistant DA in Macon for several years and headed up the District Attorney's Office's mental health court program," said Adams.

Allen also sees room for improvement in mental health services in Georgia.

"We need adequate mental health treatment for the entire population," said Allen.

Allen says that her offices are partnered with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office to better train them on how to handle patients with a mental health crisis.

If you or someone you know needs help finding mental health resources in Georgia, you can visit the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities website.

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