ATLANTA - Georgians with mental health and substance abuse issues are closer to being treated the same as people with other medical conditions.
Bi-partisan HB 1013, a sweeping bill to address the state’s dismal mental health care system, passed with a 169-3 vote on Tuesday. The Georgia bill forces insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse issues the same way they cover physical conditions.
Jeff Breedlove, a former aid to a DeKalb County commissioner and other lawmakers in Georgia, said the bill could change lives. He could no longer hide his condition after he was arrested in 2016.
"There were no options for me, I went straight to jail because that's all first responders in DeKalb County could do under the law," Breedlove said.
The new bill hopes to better-support people struggling with mental health. Legislators also intend to enforce that money is spent on patient care and not administrative costs.
Kim Jones with the National Alliance on Mental Illness says the bill is a good first step in changing the stigma on mental health.
"This is an incredible day for the people of Georgia who are affected by mental health," she said.
Some legislators are concerned about costs, so the final bill could differ from the one that passed in the House. It heads to the Senate, where there's a different version of the bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.