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Mental health, disability focus of session, budget
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

From Gov. Brian Kemp’s first address, to legislators at the Biennial in December, to his other major addresses, one theme was consistent: “Mental Health issues will be front and center in this administration.” From the marquee piece of reform legislation to a state budget replete with many additions to funding for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, this intense interest was apparent.

Legislation affecting DD/DBH

–HB 514-Created the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission which will conduct an extended review of the behavioral health system in the state over the next three years. It is intended to be a top to bottom examination with an eye towards solving present problems and redesigning the mental health delivery system in the state. This commission is intended to follow the model of the Judicial Reform Commission as well as the Juvenile Justice Reform Commission in producing recommendations that will be followed up with legislation and funding where required.

The Commission will be made up of a wide range of appointees by the Governor, Speaker, Lt. Governor and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. It will include psychiatrists, a substance abuse addiction specialist, state and local education officials, a sheriff, police chief, two House and Senate members and a CSB representative among others. The commission’s final report is due June 30, 2023.

–HB 63-Establishes exceptions to Step Therapy, the insurance requiring physicians trying cheaper drugs or procedures before more expensive but preferred ones.

– HB 26- Joins Georgia to the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, which will allow for psychologists to practice telepsychology and practice temporarily in Georgia. 

– SB 184- Requires the state health benefit plan provide coverage for services provided by federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), who provide a wide variety of services, including mental health services.

Budget additions for DD/DBH affecting mental health

–$8.4 Million in the Amended FY 19 Budget for the Ga. Apex Program to expand the program for support counselors for mental health services in high schools 

–$7.6 Million increase for crisis bed capacity with staggered start date

–$250,000 In Community Health for matching grants for hospitals in rural counties for CMS-required upgrades to emergency rooms for behavioral health patients

–$1 million to DOE for additional high school counselors and programs for Title I schools

–$4.9 million for Behavioral Health residential treatment of addictive diseases

–$1.8 million for new positions for forensic coordinators, integration home and evaluator positions

–$500,000 for DBH/DD for matching funds for HomeFirst public/private partnership to support behavioral services in permanent homeless supported housing

–$1.5 million to annualize cost of supported employment and education services for 500 young adults 

–$7.9 million to annualize 125 New Options Waiver and Comprehensive Supports Waiver Program slots and add 125 additional slots for the intellectually and developmentally disabled

–$750,000 in one-time funds start-up funding for two FQHC primary care centers and for behavioral services in Chatham County  

–In Bonds, $6.8 million for construction and equipment for renovation of the East Central Regional Hospital Kitchen in Augusta

–In Bonds, total of $5 million statewide for DBH/DD for major improvements and renovations and repairs and sustainment 

March revenues “better”

After a streak of three negative months, March revenues came in with a gain of $108.9 million or 7.0 percent. Individual Income Taxes were finally positive at 9.0 percent, gaining $64.1 million. Corporate income taxes continued a good showing, up $27.8 million or 34.3 percent.

Net Sales Taxes stayed steady at 3.9 percent, gaining $17.4 million. Title Ad Valorem Taxes were up slightly at 1.9 percent but Tag, Title and Fees were negative at -4.7 percent. Tobacco Taxes and Alcoholic Beverages were up 3.0 percent and negative 1.5 percent respectively.

Fuel taxes/fees

Motor Fuel Excise Taxes, Impact Fees and Hotel Fees were up a total of $3.5 million or 2.3 percent.

Year to date climbing slightly 

With only 3 months to go in the Fiscal Year, state revenues still have a mountain to climb. Total Revenues stand at $17.03 billion but only showing a gain of $379.9 million for the nine months, short of budgetary targets.

Individual Income Taxes are still negative for the year, at -0.2 percent while Corporate Income Taxes are up 28.1 percent. Net Sales Taxes are steady at 5.7 percent showing the major gain YTD of $249.2 million. 

Title Ad Valorem Taxes are negative YTD at -5.9 percent and Tag, Title and Fees are slightly negative at -0.3 percent. 

Total Motor Fuel Taxes and Fees, Impact Fees and Hotel Motel Fees are up 2.4 percent or $36.5 million.