On Tuesday, Georgia got one step closer to achieving parity between mental health and physical medical coverage.

House Bill 1013, “The Mental Health Parity Act,” an 80-page bill addressing Georgia's mental health crisis was passed overwhelmingly in the House. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) and Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur).

Georgia ranks 48th in mental health care, according to the organization Mental Health America of Georgia. 

"We started by acknowledging we have a problem," said Jones, member of the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare. "But we know that this is the first step that must be taken." 

Both sponsors shared their personal and professional connections to the bill. 

"As someone who has gone through the system 30-some-odd times with my older son," Jones said. "I can tell you, there is no ‘start here’ button. When it comes to mental health and substance abuse, quite frankly it is a lifelong struggle."

Oliver said, “I serve as conservator appointed by the court to manage property and assets of mentally ill citizens, almost all of whom are able to live independently with support.” 

The Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, a joint committee of the General Assembly, concluded in 2021 that parity in physical and mental healthcare has been an ongoing issue that affects Georgia families.

"HB 1013 requires that mental health services be offered and requires, in section one, that it be offered in the same way that physical illness is paid for by our insurance carriers, whether they be private, state, Medicaid, Medicare, PeachCare," Oliver said. "All health care providers are now obligated, and how do we enforce that for the first time?”

Oliver said that around 10.6 million people, or 10%, of Georgians have been diagnosis with mental illness.

“Of that 10%, there's probably closer to 1% who have a severe, psychotic crisis episode repeatedly in their lives," she said.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said "HB 1013 and the budget items demonstrate our commitment to raising the standard of our system to a level worthy of a big, growing, dynamic, diverse, and forward-looking state. And above all else, this bill will give Georgia's families hope.”