Presenting the Mental Health Parity Act on the House floor. It passed 169-3 on Tuesday, March 8, and we have had three hearings before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and its subcommittees. Hearings four and five are planned for next Monday and Wednesday.
HB 1013 gives Georgians relief and services in the following ways:
The 74 page bill contains many important parts, each of which will significantly impact the cost and delivery of services to those suffering mental health and substance use disorders and their families. It can be summed up this way:
- With this bill, Georgia will come into compliance with federal law requiring mental health and substance use insurance coverage to be no more restrictive than coverage for other health care ("parity"), and insurance companies under contract to the state will be required to spend a minimum of 85% of their collected premiums on direct care services.
- The bill addresses and improves services for those chronic sufferers who are frequent users of emergency departments and crisis units, have repeated encounters with law enforcement and the courts, and often are incarcerated rather than receiving appropriate treatment. It provides for Assisted Outpatient Care, accountability courts, and local trained co-responders to accompany peace officers to calls involving mental illness or substance abuse.
HB 1013 also:
- Establishes further data collection and reporting requirements for state agencies to ensure compliance and accountability.
- Defines mental health and substance use disorders as those included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a standard used by mental health professionals throughout the U.S.
- Encourages workforce development through the application of service cancellable provisions to existing loans for mental health professionals and to new loans for those training in the profession.
- Includes provisions for reimbursement for primary care providers and prohibits restrictions on same-day visits reimbursements.
- Requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to establish a grant program to implement Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) that will model a future statewide program. The courts need an alternative to hospitalization and prison for noncompliant outpatients.
- Changes the definition of Inpatient and Outpatient Involuntary Commitment to align with that of other states by removing the requirement that a person present a substantial risk of “imminent” harm to self or others, leaving peace officers and responders more flexibility to take a person into custody for mental health evaluation, while adding additional protections for the person in such circumstances.
- Removes the requirement that a peace officer must observe a crime in progress before taking a person into custody for mental health evaluation. Jails are the primary mental health treatment facilities in most jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and are not the best solution to help those who consistently cycle through the criminal justice and hospital systems. Commission of a crime should not be required to get a mental health evaluation.
Watch my presentation on the House Floor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALFsSt2OPwQ