Georgia mental health bill clears key legislative committee

ATLANTA (AP) — Private health insurers would face additional pressure to provide the same level of benefits for mental health disorders as they do for other medical problems under a wide-ranging bill to address Georgia’s dismal mental health care system that cleared a key state legislative committee on Wednesday.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted in favor of HB 1013 after hearing from a powerful backer of the bill, House Speaker David Ralston. The bill, which would cost $29 million, must go through one more House committee before it can be voted on by the full House and then the state Senate.

Ralston said he saw it as the start of a “multiyear” conversation about improving Georgia’s mental health services. The state has seen a spike in substance abuse and rural suicides and consistently ranks near the bottom of U.S. states for access to mental health care.

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