Georgia's new mental health law takes effect, but many changes will take time

Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lisa Hagen / WABE

This month marks the beginning of Georgia’s new Mental Health Parity Act and a major overhaul of the state’s mental health care system.

The House Speaker David Ralston-backed HB 1013 is designed to expand access to affordable mental health treatment and behavioral health services across the state.

The parity law means — for the first time in Georgia — all health insurance plans must cover mental health conditions on par with physical ones, so patients can no longer be denied medically necessary treatment.

Also in the law are changes to the process under which police officers could take a person showing signs of imminent risk of harm to themselves or others to treatment, or for emergency evaluation.

The parity law provides for more law enforcement training and helps pay to set up more critically needed mental health crisis centers across Georgia.

To help boost Georgia’s lagging pipeline of mental health providers, the law also establishes a loan forgiveness program for people studying to become mental health professionals.

It also mandates that insurers collect and report to the state data on compliance with parity.

A spokesperson for the insurance commissioner’s office says the department will post the first published parity reports online by January 1, 2024. 

The Mental Health Parity Act includes funding to hire a new mental health parity officer in the state insurance department to oversee the law’s implementation and eventually investigate potential violations of mental health parity.

Hiring for that position has already begun and could take months.

Anyone interested in making a complaint over mental health parity issues can still do so now through the state’s insurance department by calling (800) 656-2298 or visiting: