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Friday, February 01, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, FEBRUARY 1, 2019

GOVERNOR EMPHASIZING MENTAL HEALTH

Governor Kemp has put funding for mental health services front and center in his budget proposals this year. In all three recent speeches, to the Legislators attending the Biennial in December, in his State of the State address and in his remarks to the Joint Appropriations Committee last week, Gov. Kemp mentioned the addition of funding in schools to address children's issues and new funding to meet a wide range of Behavioral Health needs statewide.

In the Amended FY 2019 Budget, Gov. Kemp has proposed increasing the funding for the Georgia Apex Program (GAP) from the base of $13.4 million by 8.4 million to provide support counselors for mental health services in high schools. This expands to high schools a successful pilot program already in existence all over the state.

ADDITIONAL SERVICES FOR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

Gov. Kemp addressed some important needs in the Mental Health area, adding a total of $62.3 million in new funding for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. This total included $28.9 million to meet some of the pressing needs in the state, for mental health crisis management for behavioral health services, crisis bed capacity and to annualize the cost of crisis centers in areas with the greatest need.

CONTINUED SUPPORT OF WAIVERS AND RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT

This includes:
--New Options Waiver Program (NOW) AND Comprehensive Supports Waiver Program (COMP)
$3.6 Million to annualize cost of 125 slots
$4.2 million to fund 125 new slots
--$9.5 million to meet additional requirements of the Administrative Services Organization
--$2.4 million for mental health consumers in community settings to comply with DOJ settlement agreement
$7.0 million to offset a reduction in Medicaid patient revenues to maintain state hospital system operations
--$4.9 million for the residential treatment of adult addictive diseases
--$1.8 million for eight additional forensic community coordinators, five additional forensic evaluators and one community integration home

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED THIS WEEK

SB1: Increases felony penalty for causing hit and run accidents that result in a serious injury. Anyone who is found guilty of a hit and run accident that causes severe injury will now face a sentence of one to ten or fifteen years.

SB6: Makes it illegal to intentionally fly an unmanned aircraft, such as a drone, over a place of incarceration. This includes carrying a payload of contraband items to inmates and to photograph the place of incarceration. Conviction calls for one to five years of imprisonment.

SB26: This bill would allow for creditable retirement service for a one- time transition from the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan to the Employee's Retirement System of Georgia for members of the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan.

SB28: Defines the term 'health benefit plan' and mandates that no health benefit plan can charge a greater copay for services rendered by a licensed physical therapists, licensed occupational therapist, or licensed chiropractor than would be charged for services rendered by a primary care physician or licensed osteopath.

SB31: Defines the terms 'Emergency', 'Law Enforcement Officer' and 'Pet', in order to clarify that law enforcement officers shall not be liable for any actions committed while performing at the scene of an emergency except for gross negligence.

SB32: Relieves liability for damages for those who attempt to rescue animals from locked cars as long as they contact 9-1-1 or other law enforcement officials. Adds the provision that they are not liable for damages if attempting to give emergency care except for gross negligence.

SB35: Prohibits sexual offenders from living within 2,000 feet of their former victims or an immediate family member of their former victim.

SB38: Prevents clerks and electronic filing service providers from charging fees for the filing of pleadings or documents by the Attorney General, district attorneys, or public defenders.

SB39: Changes the language to allow for law enforcement officials to destroy weapons used in crimes involving the illegal possession of a weapon, in addition to the previously allowed sale or return of the weapons.

SB40: Makes it a felony for employees or volunteers of any school to have any sexual contact with any student, and classifies such actions as sexual assault. Under current law, a person convicted of sexual assault is guilty of a felony, unless at the time of the offense, the victim is at least 14 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the actor is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than four years older than the victim, in which case the actor is guilty of a misdemeanor.

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