Georgia legislators pushing for more money for mental health programs

Georgia legislators are pushing for mental health legislation in the state.

Georgia ranks 48th in mental health care, according to the organization Mental Health America of Georgia.

Some lawmakers want more money applied to mental health programs that focus on treating substance abuse disorders and emergency crisis response.

Crystal Kimes is no stranger to mental health struggles.

For years she relied on drugs to cope with stress and anxiety which evolved into an almost decade-long drug addiction.

On Feb. 8, 2009, the Georgia native says she hit her darkest moment after having a miscarriage.

“I just didn’t want to live anymore because I blamed myself for losing my child and I swallowed a bottle and a half of Seroquel and a bottle of pain reliever,” Kimes said.

Kimes’ suicide attempt failed.

“By the grace of God, I woke up the next morning and I called my cousin Bobby and I said, Bobby Joe, I need some help,” she said.

At that moment Crystal decided to change her life and started receiving treatment at a mental health facility specializing in drug addiction.

Today she is sober and advocates for mental health in her community and on social media just offering to listen to people’s problems.

Licensed mental health counselor Nyasha Poitier says having access to resources that address mental health concerns can change the trajectory of someone’s life.

“Mental health is health, and it impacts how we think how we feel and how we behave,” said Poitier.

Last year Georgia passed the Mental Health Parity Act which allows all health insurance plans to mental health conditions on par with physical conditions so patients can’t be denied treatment.

Mental health advocates and some lawmakers say it’s progress, but the state needs more funding in peer support and substance abuse programs and emergency crisis response.

“I think that lawmakers are at a point where they can’t ignore the conversation about mental health,” said Poitier.

In Georgia’s 2023 fiscal year budget proposal Gov. Brian Kemp is increasing funding for mental health services across the state.

Kemp also called for a $26.9 million increase in funding for school counselors “to help address our students’ emotional and mental well-being.”

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.