Legislative Update

 

A Successful Legislative Session 

GAMFT’s Legislative Committee’s success this year began with the groundwork laid from numerous members from previous years, and ended with the passage of HB 591 in the final hours of the 2021 legislative session.

Before this year, Georgia’s 1,050 licensed MFTs were the only counseling discipline that were able to diagnose and treat clients experiencing mental health issues, but were not able to authorize emergency evaluations for those in crisis. HB 591 has brought our profession’s authority on this issue to parity with the over 8,500 licensed LPCs and over 8,200 social workers in the state. It is set to become law July 1, 2021.

It is with deep gratitude to our membership that we celebrate this moment. Many of you were a direct part of this success.

 


GAMFT Legislative Advocacy Virtual Townhall

Friday, November 19th

12:00 – 1:30pm

During this townhall, we will focus on chapter and grassroots advocacy. You will find out and how you can help us continue the momentum created during the last legislative session with passage of HB 590.

Your help will be very important. By joining us on the 12th, you can learn more about GAMFT’s upcoming legislative agenda for 2022. Most importantly, you can find out how you help protect and strengthen our MFT license in Georgia.

CEs pending approval


 

State Legislative Issues for 2022

Many of us know first-hand that there is a desperate need for additional mental health supports throughout our state. Other important leaders are now seeing these last two years as a testimony to the importance our state’s mental health system places in our communities. For example, House Speaker David Ralston is proposing a $7 million boost in the state’s mental health crisis system.

He was recently quoted as saying, “I have said many times that for us to continue to be a great state, we must also focus on being a good state — one that cares for those who need it.” He went on to say that “mental health is something that touches almost every family in this state, so investing in mental health services and our accountability courts is not just good business — it is also a way of helping people recover and reunite with their families.”

Source: GPB Online

According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, our state will receive $4.9 billion in federal emergency relief and infrastructure funding as part of the American Rescue Plan. This money is meant to be used to support Georgians as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Brian Kemp is overseeing how the state will spend this money.

Some have called for the Governor to consider using some of these funds to bolster behavioral health services.

You also know that many Georgians, with insurance, fall through the cracks, unable to access needed mental health supports. Insured Georgians have more difficulty accessing behavioral health treatment – treatment for mental illnesses and substance use disorders – than they do accessing other medical care.

The Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership is working to advocate for mental health parity. Parity means that health insurance barriers to access mental health and substance use disorder treatment cannot be more stringent than those for medical/surgical treatment.

In addition to tracking these initiatives, GAMFT also continues to follow important issues and bills that were introduced during

the last legislative session. These include bills such as HB 752, HB 717, HB 702, and HB 590.

We are also tracking the work that the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission continues to offer toward a proposal for the 2022 legislative session for improvements in our state’s network of supports. We expect further consideration of past recommendations from the Commission’s report to include issues related to mental health parity, access via telehealth, standards related to involuntary commitment, mental health courts, and service cancellation of student loans for mental health clinicians.


 

National Legislative Issues for 2022

Nationally, AAMFT continues to advocate for Congress to pass legislation that would allow LMFTs to be recognized as Medicare providers. Earlier this year, legislation to finally add LMFTs as Medicare providers —the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021 — was introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 432 and in the Senate as S. 828. So far, 41 members of the House of Representatives have agreed to cosponsor H.R 432 and 14 Senators have agreed to cosponsor S. 828. AAMFT and its allies supporting H.R. 432 and S. 828 continue to seek additional cosponsors for this legislation. This summer, there are a few things that you can do to persuade your Members of Congress to support the MFTs in Medicare legislation and to move this legislation forward. Find out more detailed information here: The AAMFT Blog: Advocate for MFTs in Medicare this Summer


We are only as strong as the number of GAMFT members that join our efforts. Please join us November 12th for our upcoming virtual townhall.