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Mental Health Parity Act being considered at Georgia’s State Capitol

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Supporters gathered Monday afternoon at Georgia’s State Capitol in to support mental health legislation as it headed to an evening committee vote in the state Senate.

Advocates for the bill told CBS46 they are working to correct misinformation that is spreading about the Mental Health Parity Act. Teams with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) joined the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse to show support for the measure, as opponents began to show up closer to the 5 p.m. meeting time.

“This bill is important for people with mental health and their families because it will save lives, literally,” said Kim Jones, executive director of NAMI.

The bill that would make insurance companies cover mental health care needs and have mental health providers respond to emergencies as co-responders with police has faced serious opposition in the last two weeks. “I don’t personally understand it. They’re not willing to sit down and talk to us,” Jones said about opposition groups.

The group says it’s been seeing concerning misinformation from opponents who have said the bill would mean patients could lose their second amendment rights after being red flagged for having a possible mental health crisis. “There aren’t any red flag laws that we have in the state of Georgia. We don’t want to impute one into this bill nor would we expect to,” said Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth.

Another piece of misinformation, according to Jones is that people would be made to pay for gender reassignment surgeries for transgender patients. “

“Today, Medicaid and Peach Care do not cover that transition surgery and tomorrow this bill passes it will not cover that also,” Rep. Jones told CBS46. “In the state of Georgia, four private insurance companies to cover it but they are private and that’s their decision.”

Truth In Education has been one of the major conservative groups opposing the bill, sending notices to their members to speak out against the measure, in particular the use of the World Health Organization’s mental disorder database, which is being removed from the bill substitute.

“What we are trying to do is instill family values in the schools,” said Tom Robinson wish Truth in Education.

The group argues against the bill’s potential impact on mental health diagnoses impact in schools. “We believe that the bill gives the authority to the schools and to organization within the schools to make mental evaluations and that should not be taken away from the parents,” Robinson told CBS46. “Parents should have full responsibility evaluating and caring for their children,” he went on.

In the Senate health and human services committee meeting, lawmakers removed several parts of the bill in the 78-page substitute including any provisions for infants. The bill instead focuses on juveniles and adults. State Senators also discussed the insurance structure to make sure that insurance companies that already cover mental health treatment would have to continue to expand it.

HB1013 passed unanimously out of the Senate committee Monday, one week before Sine Die, the end of the legislative session.