Ga. Senate Passes Mental Health Co-Sponsors Act | News

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ATLANTA — An effort to establish a statewide co-respondent model as part of Georgia’s mental health reform was unanimously approved Thursday in the Senate.

Building on the success of local programs currently in effect, the Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act would create a partnership and collaboration between behavioral health professionals and law enforcement to act as a team to address potential mental health issues. emergency calls.

“In my home county of Forsyth, I have seen firsthand the impact behavioral health professionals can have on law enforcement response efforts,” said Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, who announced the initiative in January. “Partnering law enforcement officers with professionals with specialized training to defuse a mental health emergency can yield long-term results that increase public safety and provide immediate access to mental health care for those affected. people in crisis.

Sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, Senate Bill 403 directs Georgia’s 23 Community Service Boards to provide the behavioral health component of the co-responder program to law enforcement who choose to participate. to a co-sponsor program.

Under the proposal, CSBs would provide a behavioral health specialist to help officers respond to a crisis virtually or in person. With the advice of a licensed counsellor, officers will have the power to refer a person to a treatment center rather than making an arrest.

“As a physician with more than three decades of experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that people in behavioral health crisis receive an appropriate response, appropriate care, and consistent follow-up,” said said Senator Ben Watson, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “This legislation is an important step towards securing mental health services in Georgian communities by providing crisis intervention to those who need it most urgently.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that people experiencing a mental health crisis are often more likely to meet with a law enforcement officer than a mental health professional. Nearly one in four people shot and killed by police in 2019 had a mental health issue.

The Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act now awaits a vote in the House.

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