URGENT GEORGIA: Your Lawmakers Are Voting on Moving Health Care Farther from Home and Limiting Parental Rights
Our Stand: At-A-Glance
- The Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Mental Health is meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, to examine sections 3 and 4 of HB1013. These sections involve Involuntary Commitment, and Mental Health Courts and Corrections.
- These sections are crucial for parental rights and informed consent.
- Section 3 lowers the threshold of the criteria required to define a person as an involuntary inpatient by decreasing the necessary threat level of harm from “imminent” to a “reasonable expectation.” This section affects all citizens, including children, but there is no added language to protect parental rights when it comes to their children’s behavioral health.
- The bill allows for “a community service board or private provider” to “identify residents” who would need involuntary outpatient civil commitment. There is no provision for public accountability in the case a private provider is engaged. Georgians need clarity and accountability when it comes to how a board or private provider would “identify” citizens as in need of involuntary mental health services, and how they would determine how long the involuntary treatment is ”appropriate.”
- “The assisted outpatient treatment unit shall establish a statewide repository of information on persons residing in this state with behavioral health issues…” This expansive new database will conform with “all federal and state privacy laws.” This provision does not actually protect privacy because many federal privacy laws, for example, HIPAA, are permissive, and allow for sharing of individually identified health data. Health privacy expert Twila Brase, R.N. explains: “According to a 2010 HHS regulation, more than 2.2 million entities (covered entities and business associates) have the potential to be given access to private patient data without patient consent as a result of HIPAA.”
- It calls for an evaluation of the state’s “ability to share mental health data between state and local agencies…to assist in identifying, tracking, and treating those under community supervision.”
- The bill calls for a “nationally recognized expert” to be installed on the board of a newly established “assisted outpatient treatment advisory council,” and another “nationally recognized expert” to facilitate community-based initiatives to support people with serious mental illness. It calls for the use of “nationally recognized” evidence-based strategies and practices. These directives solidify federal overreach into the health and welfare of Georgians in the most private of matters.
- Language throughout the bill expands behavioral health oversight and programs to children “from birth.” The bill threatens parental rights by expanding state oversight of “behavioral health services for infants, children, and adolescents.” It adds children to addiction “treatment and education” programs.
- It calls on the Governor’s Office of Health Strategy and Coordination to create new advisory committees, adding to government spending and size.
- It expands “local co-response” team networks across the state to respond to 911 or behavioral health emergencies with the authority to refer or impose behavioral health interventions instead of arrest. In this scenario, a Georgian could be involuntarily confined without having committed a crime, which is a dangerous scenario when the standards for confinement are being lowered under this bill. There must be safeguards for Georgians against involuntary confinements or care.
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