On the Friday Dec. 2 edition of the Georgia Today podcast: Barack Obama joins Sen. Raphael Warnock at a rally in Atlanta, a new program aims to boost access to mental health care, and Georgia will be the center of the college football universe this weekend.

GA Today Podcast

Peter Biello: Welcome to the new Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, Dec. 2. I'm Peter Biello. Coming up on today's episode, former President Barack Obama returns to Atlanta to stump for Sen. Raphael Warnock. A new program aims to boost access to mental health care, especially for young people. And Georgia will be the center of the college football universe this weekend when the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are back in the SEC Championship against the LSU Tigers. These stories and more, coming up on Georgia Today.


Story 1

Peter Biello: Today was the last chance for Georgians to cast early ballots in the Senate runoff ahead of Tuesday's election. As of the close of business yesterday, more than 1.3 million Georgians had voted in the runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. That's nearly 1 million more than voted early in the last midterm runoff in 2018. That's according to the secretary of state's office. Voters continue to brave long lines in many places to make their voice heard. Philip Vickers lives in Savannah where he voted yesterday for Herschel Walker. Philip says the economy is the most important issue to him.

Philip Vickers: I'm just looking for a candidate who won't vote lockstep with bad legislation. I don't really have much against Warnock; he seems like an okay guy to me, but he just votes with Schumer and Biden and Pelosi just because they're backing it.

Peter Biello: In Macon, Pedro and Nancy Martinez had this to say.

Pedro Martinez: In my case, I grew up under dictatorships, you know, and appreciate democracy very much. And I will fight for it till the end. That's that's my point. Yeah. The issue of abortion —

Nancy Martinez: Oh, definitely.

Pedro Martinez: I think that's very important right now.

Nancy Martinez: Yeah, I have three daughters. And as it stands, I had more rights growing up than they do, and that's really bothersome. I don't like taking those steps backwards.

Peter Biello: Early voting locations will be open today in all 159 counties. Be sure to check your precinct if you're heading out this evening, as hours may vary between precincts. Voting will not be offered over the weekend.


Story 2

Barrack Obama and Raphael Warnock

Former President Barack Obama (left) stumps for a second time this election cycle in Atlanta on Dec. 1, 2022, for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff next week.

Credit: Riley Bunch / GPB News

Peter Biello: Former President Barack Obama was in Atlanta last night to campaign again for Sen. Raphael Warnock. GPB's Stephen Fowler was there.

Barack Obama: Hello, Atlanta! I'm back! I am back. You know, it feels like we just did this. And that's because we did. You get a "buy one get one free" deal on elections this year.

Stephen Fowler: Obama spoke to a packed crowd at the Pullman yards in Atlanta's Kirkwood neighborhood, imploring them to vote one more time for Warnock in Tuesday's runoff.

Barack Obama: You have the power to decide this election. You have the power to determine the course of this country. And if you work hard between now and Tuesday, if you get out to vote — but just as importantly, you get everybody that you know out to vote, then nobody is going to stop you.

Stephen Fowler: Warnock has courted Black voters and young people in this four-week sprint and says his race against Herschel Walker is about, quote, "character and competence."

Barack Obama: It's good to know that folks would prefer normal to Looney Tunes. That's a good thing. But — and you knew there was a but — I'm here to tell you that we can't let up. I'm here to tell you we can't tune out. We can't be complacent. We have to run through the tape.

Stephen Fowler: Early voting ends today and the last chance to vote is election day, Tuesday. For GPB News, I'm Stephen Fowler in Kirkwood.


Story 3

Peter Biello: Georgia still ranks near the bottom in the nation for access to mental health care. That's especially true for children. Fixing that problem should be as simple as connecting patients to counselors. But that's complicated when, increasingly, fewer people even want to get into the counseling field. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has more about a new program aimed at that problem.

Ellen Eldridge: Counselor Kristen Inman is speaking with a 17-year-old high school student about his career goals.

Counselor Kristen Inman: Can we just role-play for just a minute? Because you just said that you haven't spoken with your dad, you really can't even imagine what that would be like. But I want you to try to imagine that right now.

Ellen Eldridge: Rudra wants to pursue theater in college, but his dad wants him to follow in the family's footprints.

17-year-old high school student: Look at the biology and then into all of those years of study into medicine. And that's just, that's — just to be completely honest, that's not something I have any real desire to do.

Counselor Kristen Inman: How did it feel to say those things?

17-year-old high school student: It was it was nice to put it into words. Exactly. Exactly.

Ellen Eldridge: This was not a real session. Inman is a student at Brenau University. Her client, Rudra, is, too. His real name is David Jenkins. This mock therapy session is part of the new clinical counseling psychology degree program at Brenau University. Experts say public schools should have at least one school psychologist for every 500 students. Georgia doesn't even get close to that goal. Here, there's a psychologist for every 6,390 students. Brenau University President Anne Skleder says the program where Inman and Jenkins are training is meant to help change that.

Anne Skleder: We want to increase the clinicians on the street doing the work that needs to be done, and we need a place to do that.

Ellen Eldridge: The Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling just opened in a new building on the university's downtown Gainesville campus. Allie Collins currently works with the Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services. She enrolled in the new counseling program because, she says in her work with the family court system, she's heard from parents about their own childhood trauma, abuse or neglect.

Allie Collins: But they had never had any access to therapy or, you know, drug treatment programs, anything that would kind of set them up for success they couldn't afford.

Ellen Eldridge: As a counselor, she'd like to help break that cycle of suffering. Julie Battle is a professor of psychology and the chair of the New Darby School. Before this school opened, Brynmawr simply had a department of psychology like most universities. Battle says things that make the Darby School special are training in specialized areas like play and dance therapy. Those techniques are used when children in need of help find it hard to express their emotions with words.

Julie Battle: So it's not necessarily dance like people think of dance, it's movement. So they'll connect with the children through movement. And then once they sort of join their world, they're often able to have better luck at pulling them out and teaching them more skills to be able to function in the world that we live in.

Ellen Eldridge: Battle says these certification programs teach future therapists how to meet children where they are. And she hopes 12 to 15 students will be accepted to Bruno's Darby School each year, starting in the fall of 2023. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 4

Peter Biello: The sheriff in South Georgia's Colquitt County says a middle school student has been charged with terroristic threats and identity fraud. The student allegedly set up an Instagram account to make it look like another student was targeting the school with a gun. The incident is unrelated to, but came on the same day as Wednesday's multiple hoaxes that targeted schools statewide with false reports of active shooters. Law enforcement analyst and former DeKalb County public safety director Cedric Alexander says technology can only go so far in tracing the culprits of such crimes.

Cedric Alexander: What's going to be really important in — in pursuing those individuals who make these types of false claims of an emergency is that the community has to get involved. Any time anyone hear of anything or those who may be involved, because typically it's going to get out.

Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp issued a statement condemning the apparently coordinated hoaxes. The Colquitt County incident was being investigated as an apparent case of cyberbullying.


Story 5

Peter Biello: A joint study by members of Georgia's House and Senate on the future of electric transportation infrastructure wrapped up this week. But as GPB's Amanda Andrews explains, legislators are going to have to sort out a big detail next session.

Amanda Andrews: The question remains: What role should the state's largest electrical utility play in the rollout of EV charging stations? Some members of the committee argue Georgia Power could be the only charging option for some rural areas. Others say the utilities should stay out of it and leave room for smaller businesses. Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Chair Larry Walker III says he gets it.

State Sen. Larry Walker: Private business owners need some certainty. And if they're going to make a big investment in charging stations, they don't want to do that. And then the next, you know, few months or year or whatever, the public utility come next door to them and undercut 'em.

Amanda Andrews: Recommendations the committee settled on include how to make up for lost gas tax revenue and how to price EV charging. For GPB news, I'm Amanda Andrews.


Story 6

Peter Biello: The Southeastern Conference championship game comes to Atlanta this weekend when the number one Georgia Bulldogs take on LSU at Mercedes-Benz Stadium tomorrow. Though the Bulldogs have their eyes on a repeat national title, coach Kirby Smart is not overlooking the chance to add another SEC title to the trophy case. Georgia has managed just three conference crowns in the last four decades, the most recent coming in 2017. As of this recording, StubHub has tickets for sale anywhere between 144 bucks and nearly $9,700. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been tapped for another big college game: The NCAA has selected Atlanta to host the first college football national championship game under the expanded 12-team playoff format that will begin in the 2024-2025 season. The championship game will be played on Jan. 20, 2025. Atlanta also will get one of those two semifinal games following the 2025 season, so may want to start saving up for those tickets right now.

And that is it for today's edition of Georgia Today. As always, we welcome your feedback. Send it to us by email. The address is GeorgiaToday@gpb.org. Thanks so much for listening to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend.