We can't go back.
We can't eliminate progress.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us. The cuts to funding for mental health supports and workforce development were especially hard. Decacdes of advances in mental health recovery in Georgia were set back significantly. Georgia's spending on behavioral healthcare for its citizens was already among the lowest in the nation. We now have the opportunity to have that funding restored, or even increased, to meet the significantly increasing need for mental health resources resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our legislators will soon be returning to the state capitol to pass another budget that will further impact how Georgians received care for their mental health and substance use concerns.
GMHCN is asking for volunteers thorughout 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.
Please join our mailing list or follow us on Facebook using the links at the bottom of this page to stay connected with us as we navigate these challenging times together.
THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH RECOVERY.
FUNDING RESTORATION SOUGHT BY GMHCN:
Funding to restore Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite services provided by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network at a center to be operated in Augusta, Georgia. This funding replaces funding that was used to operate a Center in McDonough closed in 2020 due to state budget cuts. The Peer Recovery and Wellness Center of Augusta will provide a supportive trauma-informed alternative to hospitalization for people with mental health and/or substance use disorders who are experiencing emotional distress but do not meet crisis admission criteria. The Friendship Community Center (FCC) of Augusta, which had served adults with mental health concerns in Augusta since 1976, was unable to secure funding to continue operations after its local funders diverted funding to COVID-related needs in spring 2020. While GMHCN was able to accept the transfer of the property when FCC’s non-profit was dissolved, it will take the restoration of Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite funding to be able to restore services there and expand the services to include 24-hour respite, which has been a community need in Augusta for many years. GMHCN is working with FOCUS on Recovery Augusta (a Recovery Community Organization) to develop the Peer Recovery and Wellness Center of Augusta as a model for a hybrid community center where peer support for both mental health and substance use recovery can be provided, and the significant population of people in dual recovery can receive holistic, person-centered care. GMHCN's Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers were cited as evidence of the state's compliance with the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement in the Year Four (2014) Compliance Report: "Although the Settlement Agreement does not require these Centers, they are funded by State dollars and provide exemplary opportunities for companionship, respite, skill acquisition and encouragement. They are an indication of the State’s commitment to client‐directed supports in typical community settings."
Funding for Trauma-Informed Care and Emotional CPR trainings for behavioral health providers, faith organizations, first responders, law enforcement, and others. Trainings for public service and safety providers is critical to the success of Georgia’s continuum of behavioral health care; and, Georgians want to be able to support their communities: 569 Georgians have been trained by GMHCN, and at the time funding for GMHCN’s trainings was eliminated, hundreds more people remained on the waiting list. COVID has created an as-yet-unknowable number of trauma survivors, whose symptoms may not abate or appear for years, and it is critical that an informed populace be able to recognize signs of distress and be trained in providing support and knowing available resources.
Funding to restore mental health workforce development funds cut in FY20 and FY21. This funding will enable Georgia's behavioral health providers to meet the increased demand for services experienced during the COVID pandemic. The recovery and wellness focused trainings provided by GMHCN are the foundation of peer support in Georgia (which brought in over $20m in Medicaid dollars in 2019, according to DBHDD). The Certified Peer Specialist-Mental Health workforce that provides these services cannot be sustained without foundational and continuing education trainings (required by Medicaid), including the Certified Peer Specialist Project, Whole Health Action Management, the Georgia Peer Support Institute, and the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. The CPS-MH workforce is not the result of a single training, but an ongoing process of recruitment and advancement, due in large part to the relatively low wages CPS-MHs earn (in some regions, as low as $9 an hour when last surveyed in 2019), despite their contribution to the continuum of care and the Medicaid dollars they bring into the state. CPS-MHs work at Community Service Boards, in state psychiatric hospitals, and in countless community behavioral settings. Governor Deal’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform specifically called for the expansion of Forensic Peer Mentors throughout Georgia’s criminal justice system, but the Forensic Peer Mentor training is a supplement to the Certified Peer Specialist credential, which is required to participate in the Forensic Peer Mentor training. While Georgia’s public safety net has been able to weather a short-term disruption to GMHCN’s mental health workforce development training program, failure to restore these funds will result in a fundamental reduction in the availability of credentialed providers of peer support services across the state at a time when the need for services is growing daily as a result of the pandemic and its related economic and social impacts.
PENDING GEORGIA LEGISLATION SUPPORTED BY GMHCN:
HB 15 (Scott D-Rex [Clayton County]) Requires training on de-escalation techniques for peace officers, including nonlethal and communication tactics, the use of the lowest level of force first and re-evaluation as threat progresses, mental health and substance abuse awareness, and crisis intervention strategies. Tabled for current session
HB 49 (Hutchinson, D-Snellville) Requires that insurer treatment of claims concerning mental health and substance use disorders are treated in parity with other health insurance claims. Tabled for current session
HB 128 (Williams, R-Milledgeville) prohibits providers and insurance companies from discriminating against potential organ transplant recipients due solely to the physical or mental disability of the potential recipient.
HB 307 (Cooper, R-Marietta) Amends the Georgia Telehealth Act in Title 33. Cooper was driven to introduce the bill to help address the increased need for mental and behavioral health exposed during the COVID pandemic. It would authorize health care providers to provide telemedicine services from home and patients to receive telemedicine services from their home, workplace, or school. It creates parity for utilization review between in-person and telehealth encounters, allows for telemedicine without an initial in-person visit, and restricts insurers from dictating telehealth vendors that providers must use.
SB 80 (Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta) requires transparency around the requirements and restrictions for prior authorizations for healthcare services and makes data regarding prior authorization denials and approvals public. It also requires that the physician have an opportunity to discuss medical necessity of the service under review and that decisions be made within 72 hours (for urgent care) and 7 calendar days for other care.
SB 105 (Strickland, R-McDonough) provides a unified process by which individuals that have served at least three years on probation and have successfully met a list of eligibility criteria can seek early termination of their probation sentence. It is designed to give thousands of Georgians who have proven their rehabilitation, by exemplifying good behavior, the ability to access early termination.
PENDING GEORGIA LEGISLATION NOT SUPPORTED BY GMHCN:
HB 590 (Hogan, R-St. Simons) to establish assisted outpatient treatment programs for persons with mental illness who struggle to maintain engagement with essential mental health treatment. GMHCN does not support involuntary or coercive mental health treatment. Tabled for current session