Sunday, May 19, 2024

Georgia mental health forum highlights need for new advocates

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – The Carter Center hosted its first mental health forum since Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter passed away. At the 28th annual event, leaders from across the state acknowledged major changes and shortcomings in mental health support in Georgia.

The push takes on a new meaning after Carter’s death. Eve Byrd, the director of the Carter Center’s mental health program said there’s a lot of catching up to do, but the record-breaking attendance shows that people want to make a change.

“I remember talking with Mrs. Carter and her saying, ‘I don’t think we’ve gotten rid of stigma yet,’” said Byrd.

Mental health advocate Brittany Barrett received a special honor as NAMI’s program director of the year. She says in rural counties, like Butts County, it’s hard to find the money or the time for a doctor’s visit.

“For those who can afford it. I know for myself, there have been times where I’ve had to choose can I afford this medication, can I not afford this medication? And that’s a really difficult place to be in, especially when you are struggling with your mental health,” said Barrett.

Suicide rates are much higher in rural counties. The state’s behavioral health commissioner Kevin Tanner said the state’s 988 suicide prevention hotline is a lifesaving tool, but after launching two years ago, less than 16% of Georgians know it exists.

Georgia first lady Marty Kemp took part in a public service announcement that will air across the state.

In this combination photo, President Joe Biden speaks in Milwaukee, March 13, 2024, left, and...

“I’m proud that you know, a lot of first ladies have worked on this and I think we need to continue to work on this,” said Kemp.

Dialing those three numbers will connect callers to someone trained to deal with a mental health crisis. Tanner said they offer mobile units for those who need more help.

He said the state has some issues to work through, right now if you call from a different area code, you could be routed to the wrong state. Tanner said by the summertime that will be fixed. He’s also hoping to get more funding to launch more mobile crisis units. He told the crowd that right now average, wait times are upwards of an hour, and it’s higher in rural counties.

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