Lt. Governor Cagle Seeks Additional Assistance for Georgians Suffering from Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders

January 27, 2017

ATLANTA, Jan. 26, 2017 - Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, along with the Senate Majority Caucus and Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, announced today their support for the “Enhancing Mental Health Treatment in Georgia Act,” which would create the Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force.

“I think it’s safe to say that mental illness or substance abuse has affected every family in Georgia in some form or fashion,” said Cagle. “While these illnesses are no different from any other kind of health crisis, there is still so much shame and embarrassment surrounding these treatable conditions. We are working together to remove this stigma and get Georgians the help they need to lead full, healthy lives.”

The task force, the fourth of the Senate Majority Caucus’ six legislative priorities, would examine the impact of untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders while looking at ways to increase access to treatment and preventative care.

“This task force recognizes that both care and intervention are vitally important to Georgia residents’ overall health,” said Sen. Unterman. “While 92,000 Georgians with mental health or addiction issues currently receive state assistance, approximately 306,000 citizens remain untreated. That discrepancy creates a huge strain on law enforcement and medical service personnel, and we want to ensure we help as many patients in need as we can.”

If SB 4 is signed into law, Cagle and Speaker David Ralston would each appoint three members from their respective bodies to the task force. Gov. Nathan Deal would appoint nine members from various state agencies and organizations. The Georgia Mental Health Care Taskforce has been charged with the following objectives:

  • Examine the current mental health landscape
  • Assess whether current the Medicaid program provides effective care for the portion of Georgia’s population suffering from mental illness/substance abuse
  • Assess how non-Medicaid programs work to provide effective health care for the portion of Georgia’s population suffering from mental illness/substance abuse
  • Determine the impact of lack of treatment of mental illness on Georgia’s hospitals, emergency rooms, law enforcement, prisons and jails
  • Understand the link between substance abuse disorders and serious mental illness to provide comprehensive and effective treatment
  • Determine what changes could be made to Georgia’s Medicaid program to increase access to care for those suffering from mental illness/substance abuse
  • Develop complete application for Medicaid block grant funding for mental health services and substance abuse prevention and treatment