Children’s mental health services could get a big boost in state funding next year.
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Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed $22.9 million dollars in the fiscal year 2019 budget to fund children’s mental health programs.
The funding recommendations come out of a commission the governor created last year to address mental health care access for children. The money would help expand a school-based mental health program, provide more crisis services for children and increase telehealth services.
“Having been a social worker in the state for 20 years, I can tell you this is the first time there’s been a meaningful investment in children’s mental health,” said Judy Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
The funding would also go towards expanding the hours of a suicide prevention hotline to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Jewell Gooding, the executive director of Mental Health America of Georgia said suicide rates among youth have been on the rise.
“We want to make sure that that doesn’t continue, and that we can provide the interventions so that families are aware to get the resources and supports that they need,” Gooding said.
Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, echoed that the increase in funding for children’s mental health is unprecedented, and that services have long been underfunded.
“The fact that the Governor has made this a priority in the final months of his term to not only create the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, but then also to put some real money behind it, it’s incredible,” Sitkoff said.
The governor’s budget needs final approval from the state legislature.