Deal signs bill to establish mental health courts: In Milledgeville ceremony, governor also enacts law that expands seniors' assisted-living options

May 4, 2011

At the former state Capitol in Milledgeville, Gov. Nathan Deal today signed SB 39, a bill that moves forward the formation of mental health courts, and SB 178, legislation that will give senior citizens greater options to age in place.

“Far too many young people and adults suffering from addiction are crowding our jails, costing our state millions and depleting our workforce,” said Deal. “The recidivism rates of those individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness are disturbing.

“During my inaugural address in January, I made a pledge to combat this growing problem and to seek ways to provide the tools needed to help those under correctional control to return as better citizens to our communities and to be productive in our state. The creation of the mental health courts is a step in our approach to provide judicial supervision, appropriate treatment and rehabilitation and to reduce the frequency of recidivism, particularly among those with substance abuse disorders.”

SB 39 will establish a mental health court division within Georgia’s court system. It allows the court to refer a case in which a defendant suffers from mental illness or developmental disability, or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorder to the mental court division. However, defendants charged with murder, rape, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated child molestation or child molestation are NOT eligible for entry to the division.

Deal then penned his name on SB 178.

“For many years, my wife Sandra and I cared for our parents in our home and we know first-hand the challenges families face with aging relatives,” he said. “I am proud to sign SB 178 which -- for the first time -- will create a category of ‘assisted-living facility’ that fills a void in the continuum of care in our state.

“I fully support these efforts to enhance access and quality of services available in our communities that provide Georgia’s seniors with better choices for their care.”

SB 178, legislation that has the support of the Georgia Health Association, AARP, UHS Pruitt and many other key stakeholders in senior care delivery, establishes a new licensure category of long-term care provider for assisted living communities and permits the communities to provide additional services to seniors in a setting of their choice. This legislation represents a significant step forward after years of collaboration with stakeholders to address the supply of health services in the midst of growing demand.

Deal commended state Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) and members of the General Assembly for their hard work and leadership on these two pieces of legislation.

Bills can be read in their entirety at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx