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The Georgia Peer Policy Collective is being established to serve multiple functions necessitated by the scope and scale of Georgia's Mental Health Parity Act. A blue ribbon panel is being formed to guide the establishment of the group, which will serve in an advisory capacity on state policy matters to GMHCN. This group, which will include at least one representative and/or alternate from each of Georgia’s six regions, will not be expected to participate in any direct advocacy activities. Their role will be to get knee deep in Georgia’s mental health legislative issues and act as conduits of information back and forth from their communities to those who are in direct contact with legislators and policy leaders. There are two main areas where GMHCN sees opportunity for improvement in its advocacy work.

The first function we hope the Georgia Peer Policy Collective will address is the peer voice in the Network’s advocacy efforts.  The emergence of multiple complex pieces of mental health legislation being considered and frequently amended simultaneously and/or in real time has changed what we need to be able to effectively represent the mental health recovery community. For three decades we collected the priorities of our members at our annual conference, and could use that data effectively, along with other inputs such as outcomes of listening sessions, to represent the peer perspective in legislative matters. That has changed now with the volume and complexity of the mental health legislation being designed to completely reinvent most every administrative aspect of behavioral healthcare in Georgia. GMHCN needs to be able to respond more nimbly when quick-moving pieces of legislation or changes to them are introduced at the Capitol. Because our policy views are formed by our membership—and not dictated to them—it is imperative for us to be able to access the views of our members in real time (or something very close to it). When things appear from out of left field, like this year when mobile crisis teams were provided the authority to involuntarily hospitalize citizens on the street in the final house version of the Mental Health Parity Act [this was eliminated before passage]. While we were very confident our members would not want us supporting that particular piece of legislation, we had also never asked them specifically about mobile crisis teams having the ability to 10-13 people.

 

The second function we hope the Georgia Peer Policy Collective will perform is to serve as a clearinghouse for those many people and organizations who came out so strongly in support of mental health this year identifying themselves as our ally while supporting legislation intended to make it easier to lock us up, put our names in registries police can access while giving us traffic tickets, and all sorts of unpleasant things most people would guess were planned for us by our worst enemy. When you support people locking me away, coercing met into treatment, or otherwise acting against my personal goals, hopes, and aspirations, you are not in fact my ally. But what about when a person or organization proclaims this publicly? And loudly? And repeatedly? We believe there should be a core set of principles or values that people identifying themselves as allies or supporters of the mental health recovery community must adhere to. For instance, people who publicly support coercive treatments might find their way onto the “not an ally” list, which would be public, and hopefully contain some rationale or scorecard, and a path towards becoming recognized as an ally.

If you are interested in joining the steering committee establishing the organizational structure of the Georgia Peer Policy Collective, please email Chris Johnson at chris@gmhcn.org

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Georgia Peer Policy Collective, please visit the membership page.