Georgia’s new mental health law comes into effect, but many changes will take time – WABE

This month marks the start of Georgia’s new Mental Health Parity Law and a major overhaul of the state mental health care system.

House of Representatives HB 1013, supported by David Ralston, seeks to expand access to affordable mental health treatment and behavioral health services statewide.

The parity law means – for the first time in Georgia – that all health insurance companies must cover mental health problems as well as physical ones, so that patients can no longer be denied medically necessary treatments.

The law also includes changes to the process by which police officers can bring a person who shows signs of imminent risk of harm to themselves or others for treatment or emergency evaluation.

The parity law provides for more training for law enforcement officials and helps fund the establishment of much-needed mental health crisis centers across Georgia.

To boost Georgia’s lagging pipeline of mental health providers, the law also provides for a loan forgiveness program for people studying to become mental health professionals.

It also requires insurers to collect and report data on parity compliance to the state.

A spokesman for the Insurance Commissioner said the department will post the first published parity reports online by January 1, 2024.

The Mental Health Parity Act provides funding to hire a new Mental Health Parity Officer in the State Insurance Department to oversee implementation of the Act and investigate possible mental health parity violations.

Recruitment for this position has already begun and could take months.

Anyone interested in filing a complaint about a mental health issue can now do so through the State Insurance Department by calling (800) 656-2298 or visiting: oci.georgia.gov/insurance-resources/complaints -fraud.