White man with gray hair speaking with a group behind him
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston holds press conference to announce new mental health bill, in this Jan. 26, 2022 screenshot. (Ambria Burton/Fresh Take Georgia)

Georgians with mental health issues would find it easier to get services and those working in the mental health care system should get better support under legislation proposed by Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and the Georgia Behavioral Health and Reform Innovation Commission. 

“For much too long our mental health care delivery has been inadequate,” said Ralston. “The accessibility and availability of treatment has been woefully limited. For a state that is rated the number one state in the nation in which to do business, that is unacceptable.”

Ralston spoke Wednesday at the state Capitol where he was surrounded by his peers as he unveiled the importance of House Bill 1013, also known as the Mental Health Parity Act, at a news conference. 

“There is no issue this session more important to me than this issue,” said Ralston. “I am tired of telling desperate and hurting families that we have no treatment options available in Georgia. I am tired of looking in the faces of mothers who have lost a child because they saw no hope. And I’m tired of seeing the faces of those whose spiraled downward has been fed by substance abuse.”

The bill is based on recommendations from the Georgia Behavioral Health and Reform Innovation Commission, chaired by former Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Republican from Dawson County, who provided a glimpse of what to expect from the legislation.

“The bill is a giant leap forward and it will create solutions for many of the gaps we face in our mental health systems,” said Tanner. “Parities will be created in a system to elevate the importance of mental health coverage so it is equal to physical health. A compliance officer funded through the state will ensure the best quality of service for patients.”

Tanner also said the Mental Health Parity Act would benefit mental health care providers.

“We will strengthen the mental health workforce through better wages, loan forgiveness programs, and the ability to fully practice to the extent of their license,” said Tanner.

The 74-page bill, co-authored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat from Decatur and Rep. Todd Jones, a Republican from Cumming, has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee. 

Majority Leader John Burns, a Republican from Newington, and Minority Leader James Beverly, a Democrat from Macon have also signed on in support of the bill. 

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