Type to search

Business Education Events Government - Local Government - State Health News

State Representative Terry Cummings hosts informative meeting on mental health legislation


State Representative Terry Cummings, a Democrat representing the South Cobb area, recently hosted an informative community meeting in Mableton to address Georgia’s behavioral healthcare system and discuss House Bill 520 with the community.

In her efforts to advance House Bill 520 and address mental health issues, Cummings demonstrated a commitment to bipartisan collaboration by involving prominent figures from both sides of the aisle, along with respected experts in the field of mental health.

Representative Sharon Cooper, a Republican from East Cobb, who holds the position of chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, provided her insights and perspectives on the bill and shared her efforts to garner support from a wide range of stakeholders, transcending political boundaries for the common goal of improving mental health care in Georgia. “I am a Republican,” said Cooper, who chairs the House’s Public Health Committee, “but we do work bipartisan on healthcare. It’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s health care, it’s patient care. We should have parity, where mental illness is treated just as if you had diabetes. We need everybody on board. It really is an epidemic in so many ways.”

Cummings also enlisted the expertise of Kim Jones, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a highly regarded organization in the mental health field. Jones’s involvement adds credibility and valuable insights to the discussions surrounding House Bill 520.  “Just as we all have physical health, we all have mental health,” Jones said. “Just as diabetes is a chemical imbalance in your pancreas, mental health is a chemical imbalance in your brain.”

Judge Ann Harris, who presides over the Cobb County Superior Court and oversees the accountability and mental health court, also played a pivotal role during the discussion as she shared her experience in the legal system and her involvement in mental health-related matters, which brought a unique perspective to the discussions and actions related to this important bill. Judge Harris provided valuable insights into the legal process of determining a defendant’s mental fitness to stand trial. This process can be lengthy and complex, often resulting in defendants spending a significant amount of time in jail before their cases are resolved. In some cases, the period of incarceration for mentally unfit defendants may surpass what they would have served if they were convicted. 

The information provided during the meeting highlights the challenges and delays associated with mental health assessments within the legal system. It underscores the importance of addressing mental health issues and providing appropriate resources and support to individuals involved in the criminal justice system, ensuring that their rights and well-being are protected throughout the legal process.

Residents from across the community also took part in the informative session and were able to ask questions from the panel and gain a better insight on mental health and the efforts Cummings is leading at the gold dome.

This collaborative and inclusive approach demonstrates Cummings concerted effort to address mental health challenges comprehensively, with input from experts and stakeholders across the political spectrum.

Cummings says she was pleased and encouraged with the community participation, which included over 80 people in attendance. “I came up with the idea of expanding the event beyond a small group because of the enormity of the problem and the importance of making sure we get this bill passed during the next session. Like many families, I have personally dealt with family members and friends who have committed suicide or who suffer from serious mental health issues. One of my cousins who lives in Georgia had to send her adult son to our family in DC so he could access resources that were not available to him in Georgia. I have personally dealt with the aftermath of a loved one committing suicide and supported my best friend who developed bi-polar disease after college. So, I wanted to go beyond a small gathering to bring more attention to the issue and HB 520.”

In speaking about next steps, Cummings said she wants to continue connecting NAMI Executive Director Kim Jones to stakeholders for more discussions and events. “I will continue to advocate for this legislation. I hope more legislators and officials host NAMI events. Last, I plan on doing my part during the next session to help get this bill to the Governor’s desk”. 

What is HB 520?

House Bill 520 is described as a comprehensive proposal aimed at bringing substantial changes to the understanding and treatment of behavioral health in Georgia. The bill intends to allocate more resources, including funding, for mental health care, facilities, and personnel, as well as enhance research efforts in this critical area. It appears to be an effort to improve the state’s approach to mental health and behavioral healthcare, emphasizing the importance of addressing these issues more effectively and comprehensively.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *