RELEASE: Mental Health Parity Act Lacks Sufficient Support For Georgia’s Immigrants
ATLANTA — Today, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute issued a statement in response to the Senate passage of the Mental Health Parity Act or House Bill 1013. Lawmakers have restored more robust parity language to HB 1013 which ensures greater payment for behavioral health services. However, the bill does not include sufficient support for culturally and linguistically appropriate services that would expand access to behavioral health services to immigrant Georgians.
“Navigating a new country can be challenging and immigrants, like all Georgians, would benefit from access to behavioral health care. Unfortunately, the latest version of The Mental Health Parity Act would fail Georgia’s immigrants because it lacks sufficient support for culturally and linguistically appropriate services,” said GBPI Immigration Policy Analyst Crystal Muñoz. “Georgia’s immigrants make up about 10 percent of the state’s population and more than 40 percent have limited English proficiency and would therefore benefit from in-language mental health services. In the future, the General Assembly should consider adding language that ensures equitable access to behavioral health care from providers that themselves reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of their patients or have the training and translation support they need to provide high-quality care.”
House Bill 1013 still lacks sufficient support for culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Foreign-born Georgians make up about 10 percent of the population; more than 40 percent have limited English proficiency. Studies show that when the provider and the patient speak a different language, it impacts both quality of care and patient safety.
- Georgia can take steps to ensure that the expansion of the behavioral health ecosystem is in alignment with national standards for culturally and linguistically appropriate services and with federal law (e.g., Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act) through behavioral health-specific language interpretation services, translated materials, staff training on cultural competence, and more.
- For example, earlier versions of the bill required co-response teams to utilize culturally and linguistically capable personnel or materials when responding to 911 calls involving a person in a behavioral health crisis.
- The language also stated that cultural sensitivity should be included in the training for co-response teams. It is critical that language be added back into the bill.
- It is also important to expand the behavioral health care workforce in a way that reflects the growing diversity linguistic and cultural diversity of Georgia’s communities.
- Language should be added to the bill that supports increasing access to linguistically and culturally compatible certified peer specialists in rural and other underserved and unserved communities.
- Language should also be added to ensure that service cancelable loans are offered to students enrolled in behavioral health programs who are native speakers of or fluent in languages other than English.