Sen. Larry Walker, a Republican from Perry who sponsored the bill, commended Gov. Brian Kemp for including additional funding for mental health services in his proposed budget. But he said the missing piece to improving the system is addressing the workforce needs, and without access to professional care, “all these efforts that we’ve done really will be in vain.”
“Georgia has had serious problems with access to mental health care and a shortage of qualified mental health professionals at a time when demand for services is increasing,” he said.
Despite completing a standardized national exam, some therapists who have moved to Georgia have had to take additional courses, or repeat courses, to practice in the state. Sen. Sonya Halpern, a Democrat from Atlanta who spoke in support of the bill, said therapists have been delayed for up to a year while awaiting licensure.
The bill also aims to expand and support the broader mental health workforce, not just hospital workers at state psychiatric institutions serving the most severely mentally ill.