ATLANTA (March 30, 2022) | Today, the Georgia House backed Senate Bill (SB) 403, championed by Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan as a modern approach to public safety through the creation of a statewide co-responder program. Also known as the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act,” SB 403 promotes law enforcement partnerships with mental health professionals by setting up the framework for co-response teams in Georgia.

"Crime is a bipartisan issue that deserves a bipartisan solution," said Lt. Governor Duncan. "With co-response programs currently operating at the local level yielding remarkable results, taking the steps necessary to establish a statewide model for all communities to utilize is a critical step toward enhancing Georgia’s public safety infrastructure. I applaud General Assembly members from both sides of the aisle for working across party lines to bring SB 403 to the finish line.”

Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) and 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 to law enforcement agencies who choose to opt into 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 in responding to a crisis 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.

To view the full text of SB 403, visit: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61506.

 

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