Mental Health Recovery Advocacy
2022: The Year of Mental Health in Georgia
Georgia's Mental Health Recovery Advocacy Community Unites to Positively Impact Change
2022 is being called by many “the year for mental health in Georgia,” and “the year of mental health by others," but as a result of the momentum going into the legislative session, and the proclamations by many that something will change, there will certainly be some substantive changes to what services are provided, and/or how they are funded. Whether those changes end up benefitting the Georgians who need better (or any) access to high-quality, person-centered, recovery-oriented behavioral health services is something we will likely not know until well after Georgia’s brief (and typically chaotic) legislative session ends.
The good news is there are two groups of mental health advocates and allies focused on improving behavioral health services in Georgia. Readers of The Pipeline are familiar with the Behavioral Health Services Coalition, the group that has hosted Mental Health Day at the Capitol since it first began under the leadership of Sue Smith, C.E.O. of the Georgia Parent Support Network (GPSN). Less familiar is the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership (MHPP), a group focused on policies of the State of Georgia, particularly legislation, that impact if, when, where, how, to whom, and what behavioral health services are provided anywhere in Georgia. Because of the particular importance of policy in this “Year of Mental Health” in Georgia, the MHPP, which has until now kept a low profile, has been called into duty in a more public way, including organizing press conferences at the state capitol, where member organizations and legislators share their policy positions on matters important to their members.
According to Kim Jones, executive director of NAMI-Georgia, and a leader and founder of the MHPP (along with Jewell Gooding, the then-executive director of MHA-Georgia and Roland Behn, Chairman of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), describes the coalition as currently made up of just over 10 organizations committed to serving people with mental health conditions in Georgia, and says “We agree in advance to disagree on certain topics, and to set those disagreements aside and focus on being united on topics that we all agree upon to move mental health and substance use recovery forward in Georgia. Our mission is to be united in our messages to the Georgia legislators to move the needle on the many policies that we do agree on.”
Sherry Jenkins Tucker, GMHCN’s executive director and the sitting chair of the BHSC, described the groups this way: “The differences in the BHSC and the MHPP can be largely demonstrated in the meetings’ different styles. The MHPP opens with very brief introductions of new members and immediately gets down to the business of policy matters. If there is only a half hour of policy conversation, the meeting lasts a half hour and everyone goes on their way. The BHSC is more focused on building and sustaining a community of behavioral health advocates, and it is not unusual for our meetings to include discussions on topics that may not have anything directly to do with mental health, much less policy. Many of the members of the BHSC are old friends and we welcome each other that way. Much of our focus throughout the year is on Mental Health Day at the Capitol, which for many participants is more about celebration and fellowship than policy, because quite frankly, policy is boring to many if not most people in or out of mental health recovery. GMHCN is an active member of both organizations because we believe both community and policy are critically important to a robust mental health advocacy movement. There is obviously some overlap between the two groups, and while behavioral health policy and legislation are certainly important to the BHSC, there simply isn’t the fervor for policy details that would enable the BHSC to accomplish what the MHPP does with its laser focus on policy, and we are grateful to Kim, Jewell, and Roland for their success in creating a space where this important policy work can be done.”
The two groups do have much in common. Neither is a formal nonprofit organization, but rather loose collections of mostly like-minded
members. Neither organization has fundraising campaigns to sustain or manage their administration, or even a website. Information about either organization is relatively difficult to get for anyone who does not have access to a member of the groups. The most important things the groups have in common are a willingness to work together, to ensure each group’s work complements the other, and that the two groups are never in competition, working separately but in tandem.
Both groups agree that Georgians need and deserve better access to quality resources for recovery and wellness, and that was demonstrated this year when for the first time, GMHCN’s membership voted to adopt a modified version of the MHPP’s 2022 Unified Vision legislative priorities.
A version of this article first appeared in The Pipeline Volume 2 2021-2022.
Is Georgia Ready for the Next Pandemic?
Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership and Substance Use Disorder Community Stand United to Support Funding and Legislation To Save Lives
The Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership and Substance Use Disorder Community introduce The Unified Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Use Care. The Unified Vision sets out a transformational roadmap that will significantly improve the lives of Georgians with mental health and substance use disorders.
The Unified Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Use Care fundamentally shifts perceptions around mental health, substance use, and well-being. This coalition is offering positive policy solutions based on the American Rescue Plan funds for the 2022 Georgia Legislative Session to reform policies impacting the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership and Substance Use Disorder Community.
It does so by:
· embracing the concept of population health, which includes prevention, promotion, and recovery,
· addressing social determinants of health such as housing, transportation, and employment,
· integrating medical care and ensuring people receive the services and support they need, when and where they need them,
· intentionally addressing factors such as racism and discrimination that have created inequities in care and unacceptable disparities in health outcomes, and
· instituting policies, programs, and standards that value the critical importance of mental and behavioral health and healthy decision making around alcohol and drug use.
The Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership and Substance Use Disorder Community Coalition represent the majority of mental and behavioral health care consumers in Georgia, their families, and allies. We represent the diversity of Georgia and stand united with a simple yet urgent message: Rapid and robust actions must be taken by governments and leaders at all levels in Georgia to save lives and make mental and behavioral health care available to all Georgians.
Working together, we have developed eight issues which we ask Governor Kemp and the General Assembly to address during the 2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly. We stand ready as advocates to support our Georgia leaders who support Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder reforms.
Please download and share the documents below with your local and state leaders so they can better understand the impact of funding for the people and businesses of Georgia.
Join GMHCN's Advocacy Efforts
GMHCN is asking for volunteers throughout Georgia to help educate legislators about the value of peer support as part of Georgia's recovery-oriented system of care. Sharing our stories with legislators is one way for us to have enormous impact. If you are interested in learning more about supporting funding for mental health services in Georgia, please click the "Join Our Advocacy" link below.
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THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH RECOVERY.