Laura Colbert, executive director of the advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said the mass health insurance loss “spotlights a real weakness in our health system.” “On the other…
A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of Americans reported that the COVID-19 crisis has harmed their mental health. Anxiety and fear are common with people concerned about contracting the virus, a loved one getting sick, and the economic impact of the crisis, including job loss, lost income, and loss of health care coverage.
The way that people seek care for behavioral health issues has also been affected with some avoiding treatment due to fears of contracting COVID-19 and others turning to telemedicine and tele-therapy that can be done from home. Georgia non-profits and state agencies have come together to ensure resources and supports are available for Georgians who need help with their mental health. The following list provides information and links to resources to help get all of us through these difficult times.
If you need to talk to someone:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255 or use the chat option on their webpage
en Espanol: 888-628-9454
Deaf and hard-of-hearing: 1-800-799-4889
Open 24/7. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
- Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network’s Peer2Peer Warm Line
Open 24/7/365 providing peer support over the phone. Support is available to all Georgians experiencing anxiety or stress, or who need support through the pandemic. Please call any time.
- Georgia Council on Substance Abuse’s CARES Warm Line
Call or text 844-326-5400
Open every day, 8:30 am to 11 pm. FREE, confidential, and available to anyone who has questions about addiction and recovery, needs someone to listen to them or wants to talk with someone who is also in recovery from substance use disorders.
- Georgia COVID-19 Emotional support line
Open 24/7. This confidential line offers assistance for those needing emotional support or resource information as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The support line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals and others who have been trained in crisis counseling. This is part of a partnership between the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, Beacon Health Options, and Behavioral Health Link.
If you need a support group:
- The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse is offering a FREE and confidential series of virtual All Recovery Meetings for those who want to stay connected during COVID-19. To learn more about GCSA and find the most up-to-date meeting times, visit their FaceBook page.
- NAMI Georgia and their local chapters around the state offer virtual support meetings for people with mental illness and family members. To get more information about the meetings, call (770) 408-0625 or email email@example.com.
If you want to learn skills or information about mental health:
COVID-19 and your mental health:
- Learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope with resources and tips from the Mayo Clinic.
- Mental Health and COVID-19 information and resources, Mental Health America
If you have health coverage:
- Medicaid – If you need mental health or substance use recovery services during this time, check with your Medicaid insurance company and doctor to see if you can schedule a safe, socially distanced in-person appointment or a “virtual appointment” using the internet, video call, or telephone call, instead of going in-person. The contact information for your Medicaid insurance company is on the back of your insurance card.
- Private insurance – If you have insurance through your job, the State Health Benefit Plan, or the Affordable Care Act marketplace (also called healthcare.gov), use it for any testing or medical exams related to COVID-19. The Families First Act requires that health plans and insurers cover testing for COVID-19 so your test should be free. If someone wants to charge you for a test, call the DPH’s COVID-19 hotline.
- Medicare – Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs. All necessary hospitalizations are also covered by Medicare, including hospitalizations for quarantine. More information about Medicare’s coverage and services is available here.
- Uninsured – If you need a COVID-19 test, contact your local public health department to find a testing site and to ask whether the test will be free. Request that they waive any testing costs. If you need other health care services during this time, find a local community clinic, or apply for financial assistance through a hospital charity care program. Georgians should not let their insurance status get in the way of getting needed testing or treatment.
- You can find more insurance information and resources on our COVID-19 Your health coverage & care blog.
If you want to help:
- If you have completed Mental Health First Aid training and are interested in volunteering to provide support via the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line please email your name and contact info to MHFAvolunteer@dbhdd.ga.gov
Georgia consistently ranks poorly among states in children’s mental health services, this year ranking 51st in a report from the Commonwealth Fund. However, state leadership has been adamant about improving Georgia’s system of care through the infusion of additional dollars for children’s mental health services in the state budget and through innovative programs like Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education (AWARE).
Georgia Project AWARE is a youth mental health initiative focused on improving the experiences of school-aged youth in Georgia, and is funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) to the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE).
The purpose of Georgia’s Project AWARE is “to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth; provide training in Youth Mental Health First Aid; and connect children, youth, and families who may have behavioral health issues with appropriate services.”
The four main goals of Georgia Project AWARE are:
- Increase participation of families, youth, and communities and mental health providers in efforts to identify the mental health resources available to meet the needs of students and families;
- Increase awareness and identification of mental health and behavior concerns, and student and family access to mental health providers through the PBIS framework in Georgia Project AWARE (GPA) schools;
- Increase the percentage of Georgia youth and families receiving needed mental health services through collaboration between school systems and community mental health providers; and
- Train educators, first responders, parents and youth group leaders to respond to mental health needs of youth by providing free training in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).
Georgia’s Project AWARE grant supports the participation of three Georgia school systems: Griffin-Spalding County School System, Muscogee County School District, and Newton County Schools. The GaDOE has partnered with these school districts to provide training in Youth Mental Health First Aid and to develop innovative ways to connect youth and families to community-based mental health services.
Through Project AWARE, elementary and middle school teachers conduct universal screenings of their students and the screening results are used in two ways. School-, grade-, and classroom-level data is used to guide decisions about what universal supports or programs may be needed to better support the social and emotional needs of students. For example, if the results of the screening show high rates of anxiety for an entire grade of students, school leaders and teachers may make changes to school practices that may contribute to student anxiety or implement a program to help reduce or address the anxiety students are feeling.
Individual level screening results are used to identify those students who could benefit from extra social and emotional supports. These students are then connected to the appropriate behavioral services through partnerships the schools have developed with community-based providers.
Georgia Project AWARE has already screened a total of 18,713 students in 29 schools. Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability and the Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management provide support for the program through analysis of the screening results and trainings for school leadership and staff.
In Getting to know Project AWARE: Part II, we’ll learn more about Youth Mental Health First Aid and how it helps educators meet the social and emotional needs of their students.
To learn more about Georgia Project AWARE:
- Visit the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE)
- Read more from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA)
- Read the latest issue of the Georgia Project AWARE Digest
Suicide is third leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds in Georgia. In order to combat this growing issue Governor Deal and the state legislature included an additional $21.4 million in the FY2019 state budget to improve and expand children’s behavioral health services. Out of that appropriation, $1,092,000 was directed to suicide prevention efforts, which will in part go towards expanding the capacity of the Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL). GCAL provides 24/7 online and telephone support for Georgians who are seeking services for or in crisis as a result of developmental disabilities, mental health, or substance use conditions.
GCAL connects callers with trained professionals and clinicians who screen and assess the severity of callers’ need for service. The GCAL operators then provide the appropriate assistance, referrals to necessary services, or dispatch crisis services when needed. The call center can:
- Provide telephonic crisis intervention services,
- Dispatch mobile crisis teams or emergency services when needed,
- Assist individuals in finding an open crisis or detox bed across the state,
- Link individuals with urgent appointment services,
- Help individuals find a mental health, substance use treatment, or developmental disability provider in their area in a non-emergency; and
- Connect families and individuals with community-based support services.
GCAL also provides language assistance for people with limited English proficiency.
Even though GCAL’s name includes the word “crisis,” consumers do not need to be in crisis to call or visit the website. As mentioned above. GCAL provides non-emergency or crisis services. Call center staff are available to answer routine questions about behavioral health and provide callers with a choice of providers and assistance in scheduling appointments for service.
Georgia consumers can call 1-800-715-4225 or visit mygcal.com if they or someone they care for is facing a behavioral health crisis or in need of services. For more on how GCAL is making a difference in the lives of individuals and their families, check out this video from Voices for Georgia’s Children.
Georgians for a Healthy Future hosted an educational forum titled Strong Foundations: Building a System of Care to Address the Behavioral Health Needs of Georgia Children on Tuesday, May 15. The forum explored the behavioral health needs of Georgia children and youth, Georgia’s publicly-supported behavioral health landscape, and successes and opportunities in the current system of care. The event also raised awareness about Georgia’s system of care in an effort to improve access to behavioral health services for children and youth.
The event began with Respect Institute speaker Tammie Harrison, who shared her experiences navigating the behavioral health care system and getting to a place of recovery.
Because many of the event attendees were new to the topic of children’s behavioral health (BH), GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert provided some foundational information about the prevalence of children’s BH conditions, contributors to poor BH, and the pathways to BH care and supports for young Georgians. You can find Laura’s PowerPoint slides here. She also debuted GHF’s new behavioral health fact sheet.
Dante McKay, Director of the Office of Children, Young Adults, & Families at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) provided attendees with an overview of DBHDD’s work, the 2017 System of Care state plan, and how the recently signed FY19 budget would impact the department’s ability to serve Georgia children and youth.
Dr. Erica Fener-Sitkoff, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children moderated a panel discussion of BH service providers, which included Wendy Farmer of Behavioral Health Link, Laura Lucas of Project LAUNCH (DBHDD), and Monica McGannon of CHRIS 180. The panelists discussed barriers to accessing BH services, which they said include continued stigma, lack of trained workforce, and transportation. The panel also identified innovative efforts, like Project LAUNCH and mobile crisis services, to bring BH services closer to consumers when and where they need it. When asked how Georgia’s next Governor could continue to make progress in the area of children’s behavioral health, panelists suggested a focus on workforce development, increasing access to community-based substance use treatment for teens, and prevention and early intervention.
If you missed the event, a recording of the webcast is available here.
To see photos, review materials, and read more about our Strong Foundations event, please visit the event page.
Despite several missed opportunities to address consumer health concerns during this year’s state legislative session, the FY2019 budget includes several impactful investments. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal traveled through Georgia and held budget signing ceremonies in Atlanta, Acworth, Blue Ridge, Statesboro, and Tifton for the $26 billion spending plan which will begin on July 1 of this year through June 30, 2019. The infusion of dollars into children’s mental health is especially noteworthy and exciting because of the impact it is expected to have across the state.
Governor Deal has recently made children’s behavioral health one of his top health care priorities and this year included in his proposed budget $20.6 million to fund recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health. During its consideration of the state budget, he legislature ultimately increased the funding dedicated to these recommendations to $21.4 million.
These funded recommendations include behavioral health crisis services, supported employment and education for young adults with behavioral health needs, provider training and telehealth, and opioid abuse prevention for youth. Funding for suicide prevention will in part go towards expanding the capacity of GCAL, the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which provides 24/7 online and telephone support for people who are seeking services for developmental disabilities, mental health, or substance use issues. Some of the additional funding is also dedicated to the Georgia Apex Program, a school-based mental health program that improves early identification, access to and coordination of needed behavioral health (BH) services for children with BH needs..
In the coming months, we will break down the Commission’s funded priorities and their impact on young Georgians. Look for our Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies blog mini-series.
Looking for more information on this topic? Georgians for a Healthy Future will be hosting an educational forum later this month during which we will explore the behavioral health needs of Georgia children and youth, Georgia’s publicly-supported behavioral health landscape, and successes and opportunities in the current system of care. Join us in person or via webcast for this exciting and important event!
GHF is partnering with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine to host post-doctoral fellow Lizeth “Liz” Camacho. Liz has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master’s in Community Psychology from Michigan State University. In 2016, she earned a PhD in Lifespan Human Development and Family Diversity. Liz has over ten years of community-based health research experience. Her research focuses on the relationship between social determinants of health, such as discrimination, poverty, and depression, as well as the role of resilience in mental health. She is passionate about behavioral health issues and mental health policy, with a special interest on diminishing mental health disparities. Liz is also interested in the role of public health, health policy, and advocacy in decreasing health inequalities, including access to care.
As part of her fellowship experience, Liz is completing a practicum at GHF where she is leading a research project focusing on children’s behavioral health needs and services in Georgia. The results of the research project will inform the work of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. The project seeks to understand how prevalent different behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder are in children and youth across the state, and how those health needs are currently being addressed. To better support the behavioral health needs of children and youth in need, the project will examine what existing programs or policies could be scaled up and what new policies or programs may need to be introduced. The project also aims to inform the DBHDD about issues related to the state’s pediatric and youth-serving behavioral health workforce.