MACON, Ga. — A new bill awaiting the president's signature could help law enforcement better respond to mental health calls. U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff helped get the bill through the House and Senate.
He spent time in Macon Tuesday touting the legislation.
"We find that far too often, first responders are entering situations where someone is in acute mental health crisis but we have not equipped our first responders to handle that situation in effective as safe for everyone as it can be," Ossoff said.
Just in recent months, law enforcement has responded to dozens of mental health calls, some ending in tragedy.
Examples include Brianna Grier in Hancock County, a standoff in Houston County that ended with a man being shot down by police, and most recently where a man toted an AR-15 around a South Bibb neighborhood and reportedly broke into a home before taking his own life.
Ossoff's team says the bill would pay to train first responders and create crisis intervention teams, responding to mental health calls like these.
Ossoff says this will help counties implement Georgia's Co-Responder law took effect July 1. It aims to improve the response and outcome of mental health-related calls by creating teams of cops and behavioral health specialists.
Several Central Georgia counties say they're still working to implement the law, "So that when first responders are deployed to handle a situation where someone is in crisis that they have either on-the-scene or over-the-phone or on-the-radio the counsel and guidance of a mental health professional," Ossoff said.
So how much money will be coming into Central Georgia? We asked Ossoff. He says it will vary budget year to budget year based on need and appropriation. He said his office would provide estimates for next year.
His office later responded they could not estimate yet.
However, the bill does reauthorize the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program from 2023 to 2027. Macon-Bibb County applied and received a $750K grant in 2021, according to Ossoff's staff.