Georgia House Speaker Announces New Mental Health Reform Legislation

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Jon Burns, R-Newington, announced the filing of new legislation that will add to reforms made to Georgia’s mental healthcare system last year. 

“Today we begin the next chapter of our ongoing commitment to better mental healthcare in Georgia,” said Speaker Burns, according to Fox 5 Atlanta

Burns also acknowledged work done by his predecessor, the late House Speaker David Ralston, to drive the General Assembly’s work in mental health.

“We are mindful that Speaker Ralston and his wife, Sheree, were driving forces behind last year’s success. And while we miss him dearly, we are proud to continue the work he inspired,” said Burns.

The legislation, House Bill 520, is a bipartisan bill cosponsored by state Reps. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, and Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. 

The legislation “will improve data sharing between agencies in accordance with state and federal laws and include a ‘bed study’ so that state leaders know exactly how many slots are available for Georgians in crisis across the state,” the outlet reported. 

“There is not a week that goes by–and I can speak for Rep. Oliver and myself—where we literally have at least one or two Georgians contact us personally and say, ‘my son, my daughter, my cousin—what am I supposed to do?’” Jones explained. “They can’t find a bed. They can’t find [a] critical illness bed. They can’t find a place for them to go or to step down. We need to address this, and we need to study this.”

HB 520 will also expand Georgia’s loan forgiveness program to encourage more people to enter the mental health field. 

“We want more of the mental health service providers to be able to take advantage of the $10 million we appropriated last year,” said Oliver.

D & B Staff

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