GEORGIA CONTINUES TO ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS
In honor of Mental Wellness Month in January, Georgia has made positive improvements in access to care.
The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) hosts a crisis line 24/7 at 1 800 715 4225. House Bill 9 will continue to maintain the access line through the DBHDD. The purpose of the DBHDD is to assist Georgians with diagnosed mental illness and/or co-occurring substance use disorder. They can assist with assessment and recovery planning, physician and nursing services, community resources and therapy.
Last year the Georgia legislature passed the Mental Health Parity Act which expanded access to affordable mental health treatment across the state. The Act required that all health insurance plans must cover mental health conditions the same as physical conditions; and that patient can no longer be denied medically necessary treatment. The Act provided for training for law enforcement in mental health and established loan forgiveness to encourage students to become mental health professionals. This bill passage was the primary legislative goal of House Speaker David Ralston who died in November 2022.
Despite bipartisan measure to improve mental health care in Georgia, the lag remains. Georgia is first in prevalence of mental health disorders and next to last on access to treatment.
In 2022, a report on the State of Mental Health in America by Mental Health America (MHA) the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of the mentally ill , Georgia ranked 3rd in the prevalence of mental illness. On access to mental health care. Georgia ranked 48th. In 2023, the MHA report showed Georgia moved up to number one on prevalence of mental illness; and it dropped to 49 in access to care.
The main barriers to mental health treatment are affordability and access. The affordability component would be improved with an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, Georgia still suffers in access to care, particularly in its rural counties. With a population of 10.8 million, Georgia is currently only meeting the needs of 43% of its population.
To locate a mental health center in your county, use this guide. Free mental health services are provided in statewide mental health centers. You can locate one near you at this website.