Georgia Today: Redistricting map approved; Boater search suspended; Macon mental health initiative
LISTEN: On the Thursday, Nov. 30 edition of Georgia Today: A panel of state senators has approved a map that would redraw political boundaries; the families of three missing Georgia boaters say they're suspending their search; and a city-funded mental health care initiative in Macon improves access to wellness programs.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, Nov. 30. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a panel of state senators has approved a map that would redraw political boundaries. The families of three missing Georgia boaters say they're suspending their search. And a city-funded mental health care initiative in Macon improves access to wellness programs. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: A panel of state senators has approved a Republican-backed map that would redraw district boundaries. The map would add two Black-majority districts in Atlanta's southern suburbs, but it wouldn't change the balance of power between the two major political parties. Democrats argued the map did not fully address a judge's order, which found violations of the Voting Rights Act. They also decried partisan gerrymandering, which is legal. Now that the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee has had its say, the maps will go to the full Senate. The General Assembly is meeting in a special session on redistricting that kicked off yesterday and could go into next week.
Peter Biello: The families of three missing Georgia boaters say they are suspending their search. The men left the docks in Brunswick in mid-October. A final helicopter search on Tuesday yielded no new information about what happened to Caleb Wilkinson, Dalton Conway and Tyler Barlow. Barlow's father, Chris Barlow, said leading the search has been the hardest thing he's ever done. The U.S. Coast Guard searched for the men for a week after they were reported missing, scouring the ocean between northern Florida and Virginia. A privately funded search included many volunteers that the family thanked in their update on social media.
Peter Biello: Georgia should repeal entirely its law governing the building of new health care services. That's the word from the State Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform, which held its final meeting this week. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more on the committee's conclusion.
Sofi Gratas: In a 6 to 2 vote, committee members largely agreed that certificate of need squashes competition and prevents Georgians from, quote, "benefiting from advances in health care." Most new health care facilities need to prove they're not duplicating services before opening. Even then, providers nearby can oppose applications. The committee has been meeting all summer — and so has the House Study Committee on Certificate of Need Modernization — to hear testimony on how this process could change. Only 12 states have fully repealed CON. If not a full repeal, the committee want the laws scrapped for the opening of psychiatric and maternal and infant care centers, as well as the addition of certain amenities like hospital beds. A bill that would have repealed CON in rural areas failed to pass earlier this year. For GPB News, I'm Sofib Gratas.
Peter Biello: A city-funded mental health care initiative in Macon could be a model for other communities in Georgia, as GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
Ellen Eldridge: Since the spring of 2021, the city-funded Macon Mental Health Matters Initiative has been boosting access to wellness programs, counseling and treatment. Public activities like yoga meetups, local hikes and even a meetup at a cigar bar bring mental health counseling to people where they are. Project director Andrea Cook says the state Legislature's Mental Health Parity Act helped guide local leaders.
Andrea Cook: But there's still so much more work to do because while House Bill 1013 addressed so many things, it didn't really create a community-based mental health program for people.
Ellen Eldridge: Cook says certified counselors in their program are trauma-informed and representative of the diverse communities they serve. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.
Peter Biello: The first North Atlantic right whale calf of the season was spotted this week off the coast of South Carolina. Researchers with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute say they spotted the mother named Juno with her eighth recorded calf. The whales spend their calving season, which lasts from November to April, off the coast of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. Researchers identified just a dozen calves last season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there are fewer than 350 of these whales remaining. Entanglements in fishing gear and boat collisions are some of the biggest threats to the endangered species.
Peter Biello: Georgia Audubon is changing its name to Birds Georgia. The organization said today its decision comes in response to, quote, troublesome revelations about the name. Audubon was a 19th century naturalist whose name has become synonymous with the bird conservation movement. He was also an unabashed slave owner who pushed junk science about race. The Georgia group says the decision is less about judging the man and more about clearly stating its purpose and attracting young and diverse members. Birds Georgia will remain part of the National Audubon Society.
Peter Biello: In sports, in men's college basketball, Georgia rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Florida State 68 to 66 last night in the ACC/SEC Challenge. The game marked the first between the teams since a 70-67 bulldog win on Dec. 1, 1981. Georgia hosts Mercer tomorrow. And single-game tickets for the Atlanta Braves' regular season go on sale at noon tomorrow. Braves insiders have access to a pre-sale at 11 a.m. The Braves also offered a preview of their scheduled giveaways, including three different Ronald Acuna Jr. bobblehead nights celebrating his 73 stolen bases, his 41 home runs and his MVP award. The regular home season begins on Friday, April 5, with a game against the National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
And that's it for this edition of Georgia Today. Thanks so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit our website, gpb.org/news. And we'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow — provided you subscribe, of course. It's a great way to stay on top of the news here in Georgia. And if you've got feedback for us or a story idea, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.
For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news