SAVANNAH, GA – Today, after touring the Curtis V. Cooper Health Care Clinic in Savannah, Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams announced the three remaining pillars of her comprehensive seven-pillar health care platform. Abrams unveiled her plans to: increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment; ensure that Georgia’s seniors can maintain their quality of life and receive the support they need as they age; and maintain strong, responsive public programs to meet the medical needs of Georgians with disabilities.
“Georgians deserve a health care system that serves everyone in our state and provides them with the tools and care they need to thrive,” said Leader Stacey Abrams. “From ensuring that mental health and substance abuse treatment is no longer underfunded and overlooked, to providing our seniors with the resources they need to meet the physical and economic challenges of aging, to protecting those with disabilities and ensuring our public programs meet their needs, I will tackle the diverse challenges that Georgians face when it comes to staying healthy.”
Today’s event was the third stop on the Stacey Abrams’ health care tour, following her visit to Grady Hospital in Atlanta, and the Mercer Medical Clinic in Plains, GA with President Jimmy Carter. You can see all seven pillars of her comprehensive health care plan for Georgia HERE.
Background on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment
Mental health care access and substance abuse treatment are increasingly critical components of health care that are too often overlooked and underfunded. Georgia ranks as the 8th worst state for access to mental health care and in the bottom five states for number of mental health providers per capita.[i]Almost half of our counties lacked a licensed psychologist and nearly a third of our counties lacked a licensed social worker in 2015.[ii]As Governor, Abrams will:
- Work with the mental health community to increase understanding and reduce stigma regarding mental health disabilities. We will make sure Georgians know that there is no shame in mental illness.
- Increase access to treatment through Medicaid expansion and support a more integrated vision of mental health services with primary-care health systems.
- Support the Recovery Orientated Care approaches already underway in Georgia’s behavioral health community. These approaches move our focus from crisis to prevention and recognize the importance of community and hope.
- Support peer-to-peer support systems for adults, youth, and families and encourage public-private partnerships to provide innovations and improvements in mental health services.
- Encourage tele-health and other innovations to better meet needs for services across the state.
- Focus on treatment—not imprisonment. Our criminal justice platform calls for more accountability courts, better re-entry services, and community policing that can include CIT training for law enforcement.
- Focus on the whole child, to include mental health. We must follow up on our initial steps in addressing mental health for children to ensure a complete system is at work. Where a teacher or counselor identifies a child with a mental health need, they will have a place to refer the child.
- Support more training opportunities throughout our systems – law enforcement, teachers and counselors, nurses, mental health professionals, pediatricians – and expand incentives for practitioners to locate throughout the state.
Background on Senior Health
As Governor, Stacey will work on behalf of seniors to make Georgia a place where seniors can maintain their quality of life and receive the support they need as they age. Georgia has one of the nation’s fastest growing senior populations, which means that we must pay close attention to access to their health care. While most seniors rely on Medicare, for hundreds of thousands of seniors, Medicaid serves as a critical source of health coverage, providing the funds for nursing homes and other long-term care. In addition, senior health investments must recognize the physical and economic challenges of growing older, especially in rural Georgia. She will:
- Help more seniors age in place. We will strengthen the state’s commitment to the Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which offer critical connections between seniors and community services. Additionally, we will devote resources to the Community Care Services program and Home and Community Based Service program to cut wait times and waitlists for services such as home health aides, delivered meals, and personal care needs. Medicaid often funds a portion of these services, which is why expansion is critical to our growing senior population.
- Increase access to transportation. We will champion more reliable, efficient non-emergency medical transportation to ensure seniors and others can get to their medical appointments. Additionally, we will promote local efforts to launch volunteer driver programs.
- Expand insurance options for younger seniors and increase access to assisted living. We will expand Medicaid to help seniors who have not reached Medicare-age, namely, seniors who have lost their job or work in jobs that do not offer health coverage. We must help insure all seniors. Additionally, we will expand Medicaid to meet the assisted living needs of more seniors.
- Support caregivers and promote brain health research and awareness. With more than 140,000 seniors living with Alzheimer’s and 500,000 Georgians caring for them, brain health must be at the forefront of our efforts as a state going forward. Georgia’s research community has identified brain health and Alzheimer’s research as opportunities for us to lead the nation. We will coordinate state resources with research and service partners to improve the lives of those afflicted by Alzheimer’s, support their caregivers, and broaden awareness.
Background on Supporting Georgians with Disabilities
Georgians with certain physical conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or serious mental illness or behavioral disorders have health needs that go beyond what many families can afford. We need strong, responsive public programs to meet the medical needs of Georgians with disabilities. As governor, Stacey Abrams will:
- Protect Medicaid so more than 330,000 Georgians with disabilities can get the medical care, long-term care, and home and community-based services they need.
- Support Aging and Disability Resource Centers and Centers for Independent Living to ensure full coverage across Georgia.
- Fully leverage federal Medicaid funds so children can get the services they need in our schools.
- Ensure the disability community has a seat at the table in state-level policymaking.
Additionally, Abrams has released policies to improve services and opportunities for Georgians with disabilities in other platforms, including Employment First strategies in Economic Mobility Platform, grants to expand child care options for children with disabilities, and supports within K-12 and higher education.