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Children's issues, funding take center stage

POSTED: May 30, 2018 11:12 a.m.

The Legislature sometimes is criticized for issues either not addressed or coming up with the wrong answers for those problems. I would beg to differ when it comes to addressing the problems facing children over the past few years. There has been a good bit of legislation passed and certainly there has been funding provided recently. Part of the reason those same issues have been addressed would have to be the work of several commissions or study groups that have worked on solutions, presented findings and produced legislation. Governor Deal and a number of advocates in the Legislature have led the way.
Two reports this year led to positive changes. One is the Governor's Commission on Children's Mental Health and also the Georgia Autism Initiative. Both of these groups made recommendations and legislation followed and more importantly, their reports provided the basis for funding changes.

Legislation touches
children's lives
➤ HB 513 — "The Safe Place for Newborns Sign" requires the Department of Human Services to create and post signs at legal locations where a mother who is going to abandon her child can safely and legally leave the newborn. These include medical facilities, fire stations or police stations.
➤ HB 844 — Georgia Commission for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing succeeds existing commission with a new membership of 12 members, ten appointed by the Governor. Also creates multiagency task force responsible for making recommendations to the Legislature on improvements in the education system to support literacy proficiency for deaf individuals and provide developmental milestones from birth to 3rd grade.
➤ HB 920 — Allows for the dissemination of information when a child dies per the approval of the Director of the Division of Family and Children Services, including the information concerning the death of an adopted child.
➤ SB 118 — Increases the cap of required insurance coverage for autism for children to $35,000 and increases the coverage age to 20 years of age. Provides more flexibility in prescribing drugs to treat ASD's. Mandates that coverage for ABA must be provided when it is determined by the covering entity that the treatment is medically necessary.
➤ SB 131 — Adoption procedures having to do with parental rights during an appeal, the court's duties during appeal, mandates waiving of rights to counsel is voluntary and provides how a child can waive his or her right to counsel at arraignment.
➤ SB 127 — "Marsy's Law" Allows a victim to file a motion to be heard in a criminal case to assert his or her rights as provided in the Victim's Bill of Rights and provides for applicable procedure when filing this motion.
➤ HB 344 — Revises who may request a genetic test in child support cases. Sets out conditions where DHS may deny the request.
➤ HB 732 — Expands existing sexual servitude law to include persons who knowingly patronize an individual top perform sexually explicit conduct on behalf of the person actually forcing the conduct. Changes the punishment to increase to 5-20 years if the victim is 16 years old or older.

Funding in FY 2019 general budget affecting children
Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

➤ $790,801 — To prevent opioid abuse as recommended by the Commission on Children's Mental Health.
➤ $5.92 million — In Child & Adolescent Developmental Disabilities for crisis services for children under 21 diagnosed as autistic
➤ $266,119 — In existing funds for telehealth services and 3 positions for behavioral health sciences for children under 21 diagnosed as autistic
➤ $250,000 — Increased funds for the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism
➤ $84,000 — Recommended by the Governor for one-time crisis respite services as recommended by the Commission on Children's Mental Health
➤ $10.3 million — In Governor's request for crisis services as recommended by Commission on Children's Mental Health
➤ $150,000 — One-time funds for telemedicine services recommended by Commission on Children's Mental Health
➤ $1,092,000 — For suicide prevention as recommended by the Children's Commission on Mental Health
➤ $610,545 — For wraparound services training as recommended by the Commission on Children's Mental Health
➤ $436,000 — For the State Department of Education to purchase and equip a mobile audiology clinic to provide audiological care to children in rural Ga.
➤ $980,000 — Increased funds for Child Advocacy Centers like the Sunshine House in Swainsboro.
➤ $2.2 million — In DHS for a care coordinator positions to improve mental health outcomes for children in foster care as recommended by the Commission on Children's Mental Health
➤ $22.6 million — To complete $10 per day per diem increase for foster parents

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