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COLUMN: Looking to Transform Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care in Georgia

Behavioral health is impacting more Georgia families than any other medical issue. I can speak from experience about the prevalence of behavioral health conditions in our Georgia families and the imperative need for Georgia to continue to improve in providing services. There are three loved ones in my life that have needed services for behavioral health challenges: two primarily for mental health and one for both mental health and substance abuse. 

Under the Gold Dome, we are starting to make great strides in providing access to high quality mental health and substance abuse services that Georgia families need, as well as reducing the stigma of addiction and mental health challenges. On Tuesday, October 25, I spoke at a press conference with the Georgia Council of Substance Abuse and other partners to express my support for Georgia to build upon the landmark 2022 Georgia Mental Health Parity Act. However, our work is just beginning, and furthering our efforts is a top priority for me.

We must pass legislation during the upcoming 2023 legislative session based on the recent “Unified Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care” plan created by the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership. This compelling vision is filled with evidence, specific guidelines and suggestions for legislation and funding to improve the lives of Georgians with mental health and substance abuse conditions through a transformed system of care.

As a member of the House Education Committee, I am especially passionate about early identification and prevention for our children and youth and training a highly qualified and decently compensated professional behavioral health workforce.

As a member of the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee, I am also committed to improving the state’s emergency and crisis response and supporting organizations that the state can look to as an example. The state can model its framework based on the “Stepping Up Initiative,” which seeks to bolster cross-systems collaboration, build out community-based services and reduce incarceration and re-incarceration. This initiative proves it’s possible to respond effectively to people in crisis and ultimately prevent contact with the justice system in the first place.

As a mother, I am passionate about integrated care and co-occurring disorder awareness for those Georgians who suffer from both addiction and mental illness. 

I urge our governor, House and Senate leadership, the Mental Health Caucus and my legislative colleagues to make it our top priority next session to use these models to create a behavioral health system that is worthy of all Georgians. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that every Georgia family that needs these critical behavioral health services receives them.

By: State Representative Becky Evans who represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of unincorporated DeKalb, Atlanta and Decatur. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves on the Education, Intragovernmental Coordination, Economic Development & Tourism and Public Safety & Homeland Security committees.

1 Comment

  • Harold A Maio November 17, 2022

    —-reducing the stigma of addiction and mental health challenges

    “Reducing”?

    Must we keep some? It seems we are unwilling to stop.

    Harold A Maio

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