Georgia House Speaker discusses reforming state's mental health services

david ralston

Republican House Speaker David Ralston recently introduced the “Mental Health Parity Act.”  (David Goldman / Associated Press file)

David Goldman / Associated PRess file

Georgia lawmakers have made overhauling the state’s mental health services network a top priority this session, and one of the most powerful legislators at the state Capitol is leading the charge.

Republican House Speaker David Ralston recently introduced the “Mental Health Parity Act.” The legislative package, which has received the support of Democrats, has many parts.

It would expand the number of mental health providers in the state, make sure mental health services are covered like physical health services, and better train first responders to deal with mental health issues. 

According to a recent report from Mental Health America, Georgia is ranked among the worst states in the country when it comes to access to mental health care.

“We like to brag that we’re the number one state in the nation in which to do  business, but there is a real disconnect when the number one state in which to do business has the lowest rated mental health system in the country,” Ralston said on Wednesday’s edition of “Closer Look.”

“Frankly we have not had the vigorous sort of leadership on the issue that we’ve needed,” he continued.

The show also featured a conversation with local mental health providers and advocates who say change is urgently needed, especially a mindset change.

“First and foremost, we have to acknowledge simply that the brain is attached to the body. Mental health is physical health,” said Darryl Russ, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta. 

He was joined by Kim Jones, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Roland Behm from the Georgia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

To listen to these conversations, click the link for the audio player above.