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The North Atlantic right whale has calving grounds off the coast of Georgia and is also the official state marine mammal.

The Georgia Peer Policy Collective "the Collective" is being established to serve multiple functions necessitated by the scope and scale of Georgia's Mental Health Parity Act. An Advisory Committee is being formed (see below) to guide the establishment of the Collective, 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 own 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 GMHCN needs 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 the data from those 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 at GMHCN 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 most recent legislative session, 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 me 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 to the mental health recovery community in Georgia..

Additional activities, or other activities entirely, may be identified by the Advisory Committee, which we hope will help to establish a robust and effective framework for the future of mental health advocacy in Georgia.

If you are interested in joining this effort, learn more and apply to be a part of the Georgia Peer Policy Collective here.

The Georgia Peer Policy Collective Advisory Committee

The Georgia Peer Policy Collective Advisory Committee (“the Committee”) is responsible for drafting the first set of by-laws and for the selection of the first set of peer volunteers to serve on the Collective; and in order to ensure the rapid but thoughtful and informed decision-making process that must be utilized to have the Collective in good working order no later than September 1, 2022, GMHCN is requesting letters of interest from people with a history of engagement with and/or leadership in mental health advocacy (preferably in Georgia); people with experience in developing (or consulting on the development of) successful non-profit organizations, knowledge of the practical organizational needs of a nascent non-profit organization gained through management-level lived experience at a non-profit organization (ideally in Georgia) to create foundational documents, including at a minimum bylaws, that are understandable, operational, effective, and evergreen, anticipating a time when the Collective may be an autonomous, independently funded and operated organization, administratively and/or legally disconnected from GMHCN.

Advisory Committee members will not be required to identify themselves as people living with mental health concerns; however, they must be able to provide documentation demonstrating their support for mental health recovery, including community-based supports, services, and policies at the state, local, and/or national level that are self-directed, person-centered, recovery-oriented, and/or grounded in a whole-health approach. (Documentation is not required as part of the application letter, but may be requested by the ad-hoc administrative committee invited by GMHCN to identify the first Advisory Committee.)

It is anticipated that if well-qualified candidates are identified for the Committee, the founding documents should take no more than two two-hour meetings to accomplish (with electronic communication); that the selection of the peers for the Collective will be accomplished through asynchronous electronic communication, and that after the first legislative session, during which there will likely be process questions that arise and require action (up to and including amendment to the bylaws), the Advisory Committee will likely not need to meet more than quarterly in order to provide sufficient support to the Collective (however, this and the length/rotation of Committee terms of service, etc., will be determined by the Committee itself and written into the bylaws). GMHCN will have a single designated voting seat on the initial Advisory Committee, identified by and serving only at the will of the sitting GMHCN executive director, who will petition to have that seat written into the bylaws; the GMHCN policy advocate will provide technical support through the founding of the Committee and the Collective for so long as it is beneficial to and requested by the Collective, and does not become an unfunded administrative liability that prevents or inhibits GMHCN from fulfilling its moral and contractual obligations to the people and the State of Georgia.

Peer applications to serve on the Peer Policy Collective are available here.