Simone Edmonson is Georgia’s new parity commissioner for mental health |

ATLANTA — Georgia native and insurance industry veteran Simone Edmonson has been selected as the state’s new Parity Mental Health Officer.

Last year’s landmark mental health legislation, House Bill 1013, created the position within the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. Edmonson started in the new role last month.

In her new role, Edmonson will be responsible for enforcing many of the insurance-related provisions of the Mental Health Act, including ensuring that Georgia health insurers cover treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems in the same way as physical problems.

“Parity requires our insurance to provide coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders, and we want to make sure our Georgians get that treatment and that it’s fair,” Edmonson said.

Seeing family and friends deal with mental health issues sparked Edmonson’s interest in the new role.

“I see what [parity] can do and how important it is … that care is actually provided and care is non-restrictive and non-limited,” she said. “It was heartwarming to me when I heard about parity in the mental health space.”

Edmonson grew up in Savannah, where she attended Johnson High School, and then graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in community health education.

She worked in public health for several years, including a community lead risk prevention program in Savannah, before working in the insurance industry for more than two decades.

Edmonson acquired project management skills and knowledge of contracts and insurance policies during her time in the private sector.

“When I was offered this position, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s something I can think of,'” Edmonson said. “I’ve always been an advocate for mental health in my own family.”

In her first month on the job, Edmonson spent her time checking health plans for compliance.

She is focused on preparing a report to the governor and legislature in August on how health insurers are complying with the new mental health parity law.

If Georgians believe they are not getting fair health insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse problems, Edmonson said they can file a complaint with the Department of Insurance on its website.

Edmonson is a mother to a daughter in her 20s and says she recharges by taking long hikes, spending time with her family members, friends and pets, and reading. She recently hiked around Amicalola Falls in North Georgia.

Mental health is an issue that affects all communities in Georgia, Edmonson said.

“We have a melting pot, people come from all over the place,” she said. “When it comes to mental health [problems], there is no discrimination at all. It happens to all of us.”

This story is available through a news partnership with the Capitol Beat News Service, a Georgia Press Educational Foundation project.