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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 7:50am

Legal Challenge vs. State Mental Health Policy

Mental health advocates filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia claiming that it is not providing proper mental health care for deaf residents.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims that the state is refusing to enforce the federal requirement that "public health services must be equally accessible to and culturally and linguistically appropriate for the deaf."

Attorney Lee Parks says there are only a handful of mental health counselors capable of communicating in sign language, and few of those are trained in the unique needs of Georgia's deaf. He says there are likely 1,000 deaf residents in "severe" need of mental health help.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities did not immediately comment on the case.