ATLANTA (March 3, 2022) | Today the Georgia Senate approved Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan’s proposal establishing a statewide framework for implementation of co-responder programs. Building on the success of local programs currently in operation, the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act” provides an integrated model for partnership and collaboration between behavioral health professionals and law enforcement to act as a team in responding to mental health emergency calls.   

"In my home county of Forsyth, I have seen firsthand the impact that behavioral health professionals can have on law enforcement response efforts," said Lt. Governor Duncan. "Pairing law enforcement officers with professionals with specialized training to de-escalate a mental health-related emergency can yield long-term results that increase public safety and provide immediate access to mental health care for those in crises. I applaud my colleagues for prioritizing public safety with innovative and focused strategies.”

Sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson (R–Savannah) who also serves as Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, SB 403 directs Georgia’s Community Service Boards (CSBs) to provide the behavioral health component of the co-responder program for law enforcement agencies who choose to participate in a co-responder program.

“As a physician with over three decades of experience, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to ensure individuals in a behavioral health crisis receive an appropriate response, appropriate care and consistent follow-up,” said Sen. Watson. “This legislation is a significant step toward securing mental health services in Georgia communities by providing crisis intervention to those who have the most urgent need.”

With 23 operating CSBs in Georgia, local law enforcement agencies will have the option to establish a partnership through one or more co-responder teams. Under the model, CSBs will provide a behavioral health specialist to assist officers responding to a crisis either virtually or in person. With guidance from a licensed counselor, officers will have the authority to refer an individual to a treatment facility rather than make an arrest.

The “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act” now sits in the House for consideration. To view the full text of SB 403, visit: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61506.

 

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