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Georgia takes aim at mental health care shortages with new legislation

Credit: iStock

By Shanteya Hudson

Tuesday, May 7, 2024   

Georgia is taking on its mental-health care challenges head-on through new legislation.

One bill is aimed at increasing the number of providers in the state. Senate Bill 480 offers loan repayment assistance to mental-health care professionals who choose to work in underserved areas.

Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, highlighted the state’s access landscape, noting that of its 18 public health districts, 12 are located in rural areas. She said the goal is to ensure equitable access to mental-health services for all.

“Georgia is terribly short of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family providers, all levels of people that deal with various aspects of mental illness,” said Cooper.

According to the Rural Information hub, most of Georgia struggles with having enough mental-health providers. The data shows out of 159 counties, only six have no shortage, and two only have shortages in parts of the county.

Cooper elaborated on the multifaceted challenges Georgia faces in mental-health care, citing historical underinvestment and rapid population growth as contributing factors to the current shortage. She described the evolution of mental-health care policy in Georgia, including previous legislative efforts to promote parity between mental and physical health care.

“We are trying to make up for mistakes of the past and trying to do what’s right for mentally ill people and to put their illness on parity with anybody that would have a gallbladder or heart disease,” Cooper added.

Cooper pointed out that in this past legislative session, 19 bills were signed to help increase the state’s ability to care for mental- and behavioral-health needs. Other legislation includes SB 373, which helps provide expedited licenses to marriage and family therapists.

This story is republished from Public News Service (PNS) under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.