Mental health funding is desperately needed, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say, and House Speaker David Ralston is proposing a $7 million boost in the state’s crisis system.

This story also appeared in Georgia Public Broadcasting

The Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability licenses a medically monitored short-term residential program of crisis stabilization units. These CSUs provide emergency disability services that include providing psychiatric stabilization and detoxification services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As of the end of 2019, a total of 509 beds were available statewide for adults in either a crisis stabilization unit or behavioral health crisis centers, according to DBHDD. That includes 71 beds for people under the age of 18 and 245 adult beds in crisis units. 

The 264 beds in behavioral health crisis centers also offer 24-hour walk-in support for psychiatric crisis assessment, intervention and counseling.

“I have said many times that for us to continue to be a great state, we must also focus on being a good state — one that cares for those who need it,” Ralston said. “Mental health is something that touches almost every family in this state, so investing in mental health services and our accountability courts is not just good business — it is also a way of helping people recover and reunite with their families.”

Ralston’s $75 million proposal to provide additional personnel and resources for law enforcement and mental health services will be considered during the 2022 legislative session.

Some elements may appear in the Amended Fiscal Year 2022 state budget or the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget, Ralston’s office said in a press release. Specific funding allotments are subject to change based on evolving needs and agency requests throughout the budget process.

If approved, $25 million would be used for a one-time bonus for local law enforcement officers and approximately $50 million in recurring, annual expenditures for a number of state law enforcement, judicial and mental health agencies, which includes the money for DBHDD’s crisis beds.

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Ellen Eldridge is a reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting.