The legislation would offer officers the option of working with a virtual or in-person behavioral health specialist during a mental health crisis.
ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate on Thursday introduced a bill that would give local law enforcement the ability to partner with behavioral health specialists to help officers respond to an emergency mental health crisis .
According to a release from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s office, SB 403, known as the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act,” would provide a statewide framework for more teams. of co-respondents.
“In my home county of Forsyth, I have seen firsthand the impact behavioral health professionals can have on law enforcement response efforts,” Lt. Governor Duncan said. “Pairing law enforcement officers with professionals with specialized training to defuse a mental health emergency can yield long-term results that increase public safety and provide immediate access to mental health care for those affected. people in crisis. I commend my colleagues for putting public safety first with innovative and targeted strategies.”
Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) is chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It also sponsors SB 403 which would direct community service boards (CSBs) in Georgia to provide a behavioral health specialist to assist law enforcement agencies that choose to participate in the program. In Georgia, there are currently 23 CSBs in operation.
“As a physician with more than three decades of experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that people in behavioral health crisis receive an appropriate response, appropriate care, and consistent follow-up,” said said Senator Watson. “This legislation is an important step towards securing mental health services in Georgian communities by providing crisis intervention to those who need it most urgently.”
Under the program, CSBs would provide virtual or in-person behavioral health specialty to assist officers. With the help of a licensed counsellor, officers would have the power to refer someone to a treatment center rather than making an arrest.
SB 403 now heads to the House for consideration. For more information on the legislation, click here.