Credit: GPB's Lawmakers

The Mental Health Parity Act is headed to the governor’s desk after both the House and the Senate passed the bill unanimously.  

House Bill 1013, a bipartisan effort to expand mental health services in Georgia, changes requirements for mental health coverage in Georgia.  

“Georgians will know that we have heard their despair and frustration," House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blueridge) said. "We have set Georgia on a path to lifting up and reforming a failed mental health care system,”

Ralston has publicly backed the bill throughout the session.  

In an emotional press conference after the passage of HB 1013, Ralston said that he kept conversations he had with Georgians in need of services in mind.  

The bill will allow the State Insurance Commissioner to enforce a federal parity act. 

Parity means behavioral health challenges such as depression or substance use disorder must be covered as equally by insurance as physical issues.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) went through hundreds of changes before the final version was passed.  

The Senate substitute removed language that used diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5 and World Health Organization. It also struck lines that would have created multiple mental health task forces and removed some redundant language. 

The new Senate version of the bill also differed from the House version by limiting peace officers’ powers to transport individuals in crisis to involuntary treatment.  

A different bill, Senate Bill 403, establishes a co-responder team of peace officers and behavioral health specialists to respond to behavioral health crises. That bill passed the House unanimously on Wednesday.  

The Senate Rules committee added robust parity language back into the bill after the Health and Human Services Committee struck it originally.  

Sen. Michelle Au (D-Johns Creek) said the bill represented something more to the people of Georgia. 

“Above all, it is a moral document," Au said. "HB 1013 is a bipartisan commitment to the people of Georgia, that we recognize care for mental health and substance use disorder is as essential as treatment or medical and surgical care.”