Georgia gets bad mental health system grade - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia gets bad mental health system grade

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March 7, 2006

Albany-- The state of Georgia gets a bad grade when it comes to it's mental health system. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill says the state needs to improve funding, access to medication and community services for the mentally ill. Southwest Georgia health leaders agree.

Judy Payne knows Georgia's mental health system needs some work. "Of course there's great room for improvement," says Judy Payne. The system got an overall grade of D on a report card from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Payne is a licensed clinical social worker who sees first-hand the need for change especially here in Southwest Georgia.

"Because our mentally ill patients here need that access to care and need those programs as much as anywhere else in the state," says Payne.

According to the national alliance, Georgia ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to total mental health spending and 28th in money spent on each patient. "For the state of Georgia to see their score go up from a D, it will require additional funding," says Payne.

The report also says Georgia has an urgent need to eliminate restricted access to medications. Payne agrees. "In particular having to require prior authorization and a limit on the number of refills," says Payne.

About 7 percent of the peole in Southwest Georgia have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, a big number compared to other areas, but there's a lack of community services to help them. "Often times it's the families who suffer financially, who suffer socially, who suffer emotionally when there are not enough community-based services," says Payne.

For it's current services, Georgia did get a D+. Advocates will continue working to get that grade up. "We need to be vocal. We need to be present," says Payne. They say it begins with more money. Then, maybe that D could become an A.

No state received an A from the report. Advocates for the mentally ill also worry about proposed medicaid changes they say may limit access to care even more.

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