Champions for Mental Health
The Advocacy Center
March 1st 2021 | Issue 25
2021 Legislative Session
Last week the Georgia Assembly convened for a long five-day week for Legislative Days 20-25. Many bills were passed through in preparation for crossover day. The House adopted an adjournment resolution that will bring legislators back to the Capitol on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week. Additionally Crossover Day was set on March 8 and adjournment on March 31.

Session Updates
Legislative Tracking
There were a handful of new bill emerging out of the House and Senate throughout last week, many of which are listed below. For a full list of the bills we are tracking and their current status, download our legislative update. Also, look your state legislators up by address or use your current location below.
HB 539 Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), amends Title 43 to allow DCH licensed hospitals, medical schools, teaching hospitals, and clinics that provide care to predominantly Medicaid, indigent, and underserved populations to apply for a DEA registration number to write prescriptions to be filled outside the institution.

HB 569 Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), amends Title 43 to outlaw the practice of conversion therapy by professional counselors, physicians, or psychologists. This bill was referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee.

HB 570 Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 35 to require the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to include mental health operatives in its training requirements.

HB 571 Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 35 to require police officers to obtain training in mental health operatives.

HR 186 Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), creates the Joint Medicaid Sustainability Study Committee.

HR 187 Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon), urges for the expansion of Medicaid.

HR 201, Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro), promotes and encourages local law enforcement agencies to incorporate Mental Health Operatives into their agencies.
HB 590 Rep. Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island), amends Title 37 to establish an assisted outpatient treatment program for persons with mental illness.

HB 591 Rep. Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island), amends Title 37 to authorize licensed marriage and family therapists to perform certain acts related to emergency mental health treatment.

HB 608 Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), amends Title 50 to stipulate that certain broadband grants may only be given to entities that expand broadband to areas of the state where no other broadband provider has already provided access.

HB 636, Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), amends Title 34 to mandate 10 minute rest breaks for every four hours worked for all eligible hourly employees in the state.

HB 645, authored by Representative Micah Gravely (R-Douglasville), amends Title 16 to include non-oil THC products in the state's allowance for medical marijuana.

HB 649, authored by Rep. Erick Allen (D-Smyrna), amends Title 31 to require hospitals and long term care facilities to allow visitation of "essential visitors" which the bill defines as family members or guardians designated by the patient or resident of a long term care facility as crucial to their mental, physical, or social well being.
(Sen. Sheikh Rahman D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 43 to allow localities to issue licenses for the retail sale of marijuana.

(Sen. Sheikh Rahman D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 43 to authorize the use of medical marijuana in Georgia and to allow individuals to petition the state to add new debilitating medical conditions to the list of approved conditions for medical marijuana usage.

(Sen. Sheikh Rahman D-Lawrenceville), proposes a constitutional amendment to legalize and regulate marijuana.
Session Updates
Legislative Day 20: Monday, February 22nd

Passed in the House

HB 98 Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), addresses conditions by which meetings and public hearings may be held by teleconference in emergency conditions.

HB 150 Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), is known as the “energy choice” legislation and prohibits local governments from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon type or source of energy or fuel.

HB 156 Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), addresses sharing of information and reporting of cyber attacks to the military.

HB 234 Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), is a clean up proposal to Georgia’s Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act.

HB 245 Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends current law regarding licensure provisions for podiatrists' fingerprint and criminal background checks.

HB 268 Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), proposes enactment of the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act.

HB 307 Rep.Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), is the Georgia Telehealth Act and permits telehealth privileges allowed in Georgia during the pandemic to extend beyond the pandemic.

HB 362 Rep.Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro), addresses the Environmental Protection Division standards, rules and regulations’ effective date.

Senate Committee Updates

SB 47 Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), amends Title 20 to expand eligibility for the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

Legislative Day 21: Tuesday, February 23rd

House Insurance Committee - Life and Health Subcommittee

SB 4 Sen.Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), seeks to establish standards for substance abuse providers to limit some marketing practices. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, moving to the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 509 Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), seeks to require an insurer to provide at least one individual health insurance product with no preexisting condition limitations or exclusions in the event that the Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or is repealed by the Congress. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving to the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 73 Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), seeks to address limits copayments, co-insurance, or other cost sharing arrangements charged by insurers or pharmacy benefit managers for insulin so that such changes can be no more than $50 per 30 days’ supply of the drug. The bill passed.

Senate Higher Education Committee

SB 107 Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), seeks to provide in O.C.G.A. 20-3-660 tuition and fee waivers for foster care youth who are enrolled in the Technical College System of Georgia. DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.
Legislative Day 22: Wednesday, February 24rd

House Insurance Committee

HB 509 Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), ensures that if the Affordable Care Act is struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional that Georgia’s law would protect pre-existing conditions. The Committee gave a DO PASS recommendation on this bill, moving it to the House Rules Committee.

Senate Labor & Insurance Committee

SB 80 Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), amends Title 33 to create the "Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act." The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

Legislative Day 23: Thursday, February 25th

Heard in the House

HB 34 the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact. Passed.

HB 141 the legislation addressing the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund Passed.

HB 442 the legislation adding social media management to parenting plans in child custody proceedings Passed unanimously.

Judiciary Committee

SB 92 Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 16 to prohibit the sale to and by minors of drug products containing dextromethorphan, an ingredient in over-the-counter cough syrup.The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

HB 60 Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), is the "Georgia Educational Scholarship Act. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS.

Legislative Day 24: Friday, February 26th

Heard in the House

HB 271 Community Health, Department of; assess one or more provider matching payments on ambulance services; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-Reeves-34th) Bill passed by Substitute.

HB 275 Fire protection and safety; random drug tests for certain firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, paramedics, and cardiac technicians; require (Substitute)(PS&HS-McDonald-26th) Bill passed by Substitute.

HB 370 Health; term limits for members of joint hospital authorities; provide (H&HS-Jones-47th) Bill passed.

HB 395 The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act; enact (Substitute)(RegI-Belton-112th) Bill passed.

HB 458 Georgia Composite Medical Board; require certain training relating to sexual misconduct for members (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Bill passed by Subsitute.

HB 509 Insurance; require certain insurers to make at least one reasonably priced comprehensive major medical health insurance policy available (Ins-Gaines-117th) Bill passed.

Heard in the Senate  

SB 116 Children and Youth Services; registration of maternity supportive house residences to provide housing for pregnant women; provide. The bill passed by Substitute.

SB 215 Regulation of Hospitals; certified medication aides to administer certain medications to nursing home residents; authorize.The bill passed by Substitute.

House Government Affairs Committee

HB 608 Rep. Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), seeks to address the planning and deployment of broadband services in Georgia. This bill received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the full Committee.

National MHA Policy Update

Congressional Action

Last Monday, the House Budget Committee passed the $1.9 Trillion dollar relief bill, and it went to the House for a full vote at the end of last week. The House voted to approve the bill last Friday.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will now head over to the Senate, where some of the provisions may face greater scrutiny from the Senate Parliamentarian as part of the reconciliation process. Funding for the mental health and substance use community are likely to move forward, including $4B to SAMHSA and HRSA for services and workforce, respectively. This includes $1.75B for the mental health block grant and $1.75B for the substance use block grant.  
There are several health expansions in the House bill, including a state option to provide a 12-month extension for full benefits post-delivery for maternal health (sunsets after 5 years) as well as a 5% Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase for states that have not yet expanded Medicaid for two years. The bill provides a 7.35% increase to FMAP for home and community-based services, including mental health rehabilitation services, for one year. It also extends Medicaid eligibility to 30 days prior to release from incarceration and increases the FMAP to 85% for mobile crisis services (both of these provisions sunset after 5 years). In addition to Medicaid, the bill provides additional subsidies for exchange plans to make those more available to low-income families. The provisions sunset relatively quickly because of budget reconciliation rules and a desire to keep the costs down.  
There are many other provisions for unemployment insurance, state and local funding, schools, vaccines, child care, housing and other needs. This article gives a concise list of what is in the massive bill by area of need.
 Upcoming Community & Advocacy Events

The MHTTC Network is hosting an 8-part training series from February 2021-May 2021
The series will be using the National School Mental Health Curriculum: Guidance and Best Practices for States, Districts, and Schools. The Curriculum was developed by the MHTTC Network in partnership with the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH). It is intended to help states, districts and schools advance comprehensive school mental health and engage in a planning process for implementation.
GCDD Virtual Advocacy Day #3
Competitive, Integrated Employment/
Supported Employment
New Date! Wednesday, March 10, 2021
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. (EST)
Register here.

Hello, advocates! The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is excited to host our third and final virtual advocacy day on March 10. (Please note this was formerly scheduled for March 2.) We heard from our community that you prefer a virtual platform you are more familiar with, so this meeting will be hosted in Zoom.

This Advocacy Day will engage Georgians with disabilities, their families, and allies on the importance of competitive, integrated employment in the state, as well as methods of engaging their legislators in this virtual environment to ensure continued support from Georgia's policymakers for competitive, integrated employment and supported employment for individuals with developmental disabilities.

This is a free event, however, registration is required. Please complete registration for ALL attendees. This allows all of our advocates to be counted and receive information before, during and after the event.
Behavioral Health Town Hall Series
Mental Health America of Georgia hosted a series of virtual town halls to inform and advocate for Georgia’s communities impacted by mental health conditions. The town halls offered information and recommendations on the political determinants of Mental Health and Wellness. Each town hall topic discussed the intersection of mental health in the community and policy recommendations to improve mental health outcomes in specific population groups. Please review our past town halls to become more informed of the impacts in our communities.
For free and confidential emotional support or resource information as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, call or text 866-399-8938.