The Board of Managers of ACCG, Georgia’s county association, in response to rapidly growing problems related to the lack of access to mental health services in Georgia, has created a new Standing Committee devoted to studying and addressing the issue. The escalating crisis presents both moral and financial dilemmas for Georgia’s county commissioners to address. The lack of readily accessible mental health services, as well as the growing opioid epidemic, adversely impacts county governments and the citizens they serve. The ACCG Board of Managers is committed to making access to mental health services, along with substance addiction treatment, priority issues. The association will collaborate with other organizations to develop recommendations, including potential legislative remedies which would be proposed in future legislative sessions, to mitigate the problems.
Baldwin County Commissioner Henry Craig serves as chairman of the Standing Committee on Mental Health. Craig chaired the first meeting of the committee, held in December 2017. Mental health and opioid addiction subcommittees were appointed at that time.
“Morally, we know mental illness should be treated medically. Those with mental illness should not be punished by having the county jail and the criminal justice system serve as their only treatment provider,” said Craig. “Georgia counties will never have the financial and facility resources to provide adequate treatment to those with mental health and addiction illnesses. The cost of housing and treating the mentally ill and those with substance addictions in our county jails is financially unstainable. Relegating those with mental illness to primary or exclusive treatment through the criminal justice system does not meet our moral obligations. Counties must have state and federal support to address the escalating needs of our citizens that, at one time, were previously provided by the state. Not only is this a mental health service delivery issue, it is a public safety issue – the number one responsibility of government.”
The committee will meet during the summer to begin development of recommendations for the next legislative session and work with stakeholders to identify other collaborative ways to address this issue.