Georgia General Assembly Update
It is busy at the Capitol. Jan. 9, marked the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session. This was the first of f the 2017-2018 legislative cycle. Members of the Georgia General Assembly are studying, discussing and introducing new bills and, in the next two years, some of these bills will become new laws.
One of the most noticeable changes is that Crossover Day will move up to Day 28 of session. Typically on Day 30, this is the last day that one chamber can pass legislation to the other. Any bill that doesn’t receive a vote and pass to the opposite chamber by the end of this busy day cannot become a law in 2017.
Some legislation to watch:
creates the Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force, which has 21 positions, including two representatives from mental health advocacy groups and a representative from a community service board. One of the tasks of the Task Force is to assess which services and practices work best to prevent further deterioration within the mentally ill and substance abuse disorder populations, including, but not limited to supportive housing, crisis stabilization programs, community residential rehabilitation, assertive community treatment services, telemedicine, data integration, and addiction treatment programs. And, very importantly, to work within the guidelines established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan for distribution of funding for mental health and substance abuse services in Georgia.
The House Budget HB43 includes $6, 072, 518 to serve adults with severe and persistent mental illness, including in supportive housing, to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Justice Settlement Agreement. It includes $6, 004,841 to place 250 adults with developmental disabilities into supportive housing, also to comply with the U.S DOJ settlement.
HB161 – enables “harm reduction organizations” to operate needle exchange programs, these organizations are defined as those which provide direct assistance and services, such as syringe exchanges, counseling, homeless services, advocacy, drug treatment, and screening, to at-risk individuals to slow the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases among intravenous drug users.