Credit: GPB's Lawmakers

The Georgia General Assembly looked ahead to the future of mental health legislation in the state on “Mental Health Day” at the Capitol.  

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur) and Rep Todd Jones (R – Forsyth) spoke in the House about the importance of mental health legislation. 

"Speaker Ralston gave us the privilege of carrying this legislation," Jones said. "And one thing he continued to press upon us when we met with him is that 2022 may be the year of mental health, but this needs to be the decade of mental health and substance abuse."

Jones and Oliver were chosen by the late Speaker David Ralston to carry House Bill 1013, the Mental Health Parity Act, in the House last year. Both the House and Senate passed the Mental Health Parity Act overwhelmingly, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law.  

Now, Jones and Oliver are looking at HB 1013 as a foundation to build upon future legislation. Oliver said that more mental health legislation is anticipated this session. 

"We look forward to perfecting this legislation with you, particularly in the area of workforce, which we know is a challenge for Georgia. We are expanding the loan forgiveness program” and she said, “We are working again on licensure barriers to get more folks working." 

Kemp has made mental health a priority in his fiscal year 2023 budget. He included funding for school counselors and mental health treatment programs. However, some advocates would still like to see more money applied to mental health programs. 

Mental health advocates continued the celebration on the south steps with a press conference and rally. Legislators joined in to express their support for future mental health legislation.  

Sen. Nan Orrock (D – Atlanta) said, “We need every voice at the table. We have, really, an epidemic of mental health issues and substance abuse issues, disorders. And we need to be putting the pedal to the metal to address these in the state of Georgia.”