Two Separate Coalitions of Grassroots Groups Lobbying Georgia Legislature on Mental Health
By Gareth Fenley, president, NAMI Augusta. Published in the NAMI Augusta Azalea, November 2009.
PLEASE NOTE: This is old information from 2009. This is a historical "snapshot" and not accurate current information.
This year, consumers of mental health services and our families have two separate coalitions of organizations representing us in the Georgia General Assembly.
Are two better than one? Or would it be better to be united? However it may be, as it stands now, the two groups are working independently.
The Behavioral Health Services Coalition is the new name of a long-standing advocacy group previously called the Mental Health Services Coalition. The name change reflects a new inclusion of advocacy for people with addictive diseases.
The Coalition's plans for this legislative session are to focus on three top priorities: Housing, child and adolescent services, and addictive disease services.
The Coalition welcomes new members to join its efforts and its action alert email list. Anyone interested should contact Ellyn Jaeger at email@example.com
The Gray Matters Behavioral Health Legislative Caucus is a completely new group of Georgia legislators, advocacy groups, and individuals that was initiated by NAMI Georgia this year. The Caucus is working on two areas of focus: community services and the justice system. Because there were no consumer advocates participating in the justice system work group, I joined it.
Anyone interested in the Gray Matters caucus is also welcome and encouraged to join. Contact Eric Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Both the Coalition and the Caucus have met with the new Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Frank Shelp.
It remains to be seen whether the work of these two groups will result in twice as much effectiveness with the Legislature, or whether they will end up disagreeing with each other and working at cross purposes.
It's my sincere hope that, one way or another, the people of Georgia will be the winners. Consumers and families desperately need improvements in our mental health system, and we should all keep our eyes on that goal as a prize that everyone can win together.
More information about the Gray Matters caucus is below.
Gray Matters Behavioral Health Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly
A Behavioral Health Legislative Caucus
For Legislators to learn about Mental Health and Addictive Disease issues.
A series of quarterly caucus meetings designed to enhance the dialogue between advocacy partners, stakeholders, and members of the legislative and executive branches of government.
The Caucus attendees will be all Georgia Legislators who wish to attend, the Hosts, Co-hosts and other invited guests.
At the first Caucus, August 10th, 2009, in the Georgia State Capitol, the legislators met the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Dr. Frank Shelp and the Mental Health Co-occurring Disorders Ombudsman Jewel Norman.
A meeting of the Caucus was held:
November 9, 2009
This second caucus put forward the legislative actions the advocacy and stakeholder groups believe will have the most impact on the current system of care.
Senator Johnny Grant
Representative Mark Butler
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle
Sen. Jack Hill
Sen. Horacena Tate
Sen. Renee Unterman
Rep. Mark Burkhalter
Rep. Buddy Carter
Rep. Sharon Cooper
Rep. Elly Dobbs
Rep. Pat Gardner
Rep. Judy Manning
Rep. Bob Smith
Rep. Ron Stephens
Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia
The Carter Center
Coalition for the Homeless Mentally Ill
Clarke County Probate Court
Ga. Advocacy Office
Ga. Assoc. for Persons in Supportive Employment
Ga. Assoc. of Community Service Boards
Ga. CIT Advisory Council
Ga. Council on Substance Abuse
Ga. Chiefs of Police Association
Ga. Department of Corrections
Ga. Department of Pardon and Paroles
Ga. Hospital Association
Ga. Parent Support Network
Ga. Psychiatric Physicians Association
Ga. Psychological Association
Ga. Sheriffs Association
Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Ga.
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Ga. Chapter
National Assoc. of Social Workers - Ga. Chapter
If you wish to participate in the Caucus, please contact Eric Spencer at email@example.com