Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that the creation of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, which is charged with providing recommendations on improving state mental health services for children, was created by executive order. The commission, comprised of health care experts, state leaders and children’s advocates, will submit a report to Deal on Sept. 1 that identifies potential improvements to state Medicaid services, as well as ways to increase access to care for uninsured children.
“This commission is modeled after several successful interagency collaborations, including the First Lady’s Children’s Cabinet, the Child Welfare Reform Council and the Criminal Justice Reform Council,” said Deal. “These councils have provided invaluable guidance in helping shape effective, meaningful policies. In fact, the Child Welfare Reform Council’s advocacy on the importance of early examination and treatment resulted in changes to mental health coverage for Medicaid and PeachCare members. This year, my budget included an additional $2.5 million to provide mental health services to the full population of children from birth to age five.
“The Commission on Children’s Mental Health is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to better care for Georgians, particularly our most vulnerable, and it’s a natural progression of the work done by the aforementioned groups. Following my state of the state address in January, I began working with appropriate agency directors, legislators and stakeholders to address issues and suggest policy changes to mental health services provided by the state. This commission will review the programs and areas identified, as well as the funding necessary to make improvements, and report back to me in the fall. Its members will work to help ensure our youngest patients receive the treatment necessary to help them grow up as healthy and productive members of society. I look forward to reviewing their feedback and taking the next steps in reforming mental health services for Georgia’s children.”
The commission members include:
• Co-Chairwoman Katie Childers, Governor’s deputy chief of staff of policy
• Co-Chairwoman Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
• Commissioner Frank Berry, Department of Community Health
• Director Bobby Cagle, Department of Family and Child Services
• Director Teresa MacCartney, Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the state’s Chief Financial Officer
• Stephanie Blank, Founding Chairwoman, Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students
• Erica Fener Sitkoff, Policy and Outreach Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children
• Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta