Access to timely, high-quality behavioral health services is increasingly a matter of life and death for Georgia’s Children. According to the Georgia Student Health Survey, the state saw a 45.6% jump in teens (6th through 12th grade) attempting suicide between 2017 and 2018.

As state leaders set budget priorities for the coming fiscal year, Voices for Georgia’s Children is highlighting this alarming increase. In 2017, we conducted a comprehensive Analysis of Georgia’s Child and Adolescent Behavioral Workforce. The idea that we need to strengthen our behavioral health workforce in Georgia played a central role in several of the legislative study committees that met in 2019, and it is clear that the state’s behavioral workforce is on the front lines for helping ensure children thrive and protecting their long-term well-being.

Voices offers a new foreword to our Behavioral Health Workforce Report that outlines the progress Georgia has made since our original release and opportunities that remain.

Read the Full Report Here

Progress Since 2017

  • Key legislation to help alleviate provider shortages, allowing Georgia to enter into interstate compacts for physicians to practice medicine and psychologists to practice telemedicine in the state, and requiring equal reimbursement for telemedicine services among insurers.
  • A study committee on Infant and Toddler Social Emotional Health, including a detailed look at children’s behavioral health workforce issues.
  • Medicaid reimbursement for, and significant growth of Certified Peer Specialists (Parent and Youth) – allowing infusion of valuable, lived-experience supports into a variety of settings, including community service boards and emergency rooms.
  • DOE training of over 21,000 educators in mental health awareness.
  • DECAL’s expansion of its Inclusion and Behavior Support Unit into a multi-tiered system designed to promote healthy social emotional development in young children through supports to early childhood professionals, families and children.
  • Creation of Resilient Georgia, an organization dedicated to supporting resiliency for all children and families in Georgia, including through the development of a trauma-training “hub” to share best practices, align training programs, address the needs of key child-serving sectors, and create a common language around trauma and resiliency.
  • Embedded trauma training into the practicum program of five schools of social work, in partnership with the Interagency Directors Team and System of Care State Plan (training students, as well as supervising licensed providers). Counseling and nursing programs are being targeted next.

Key Opportunities for the State

  • Add a Minimum Data Set Survey (MDSS) to behavioral health provider license renewals, similar to what is collected for Georgia physicians, allowing Georgia to capture and report comprehensive, consistent, and reliable data on providers and their practice settings, and pursue data-informed workforce solutions.
  • Create state-funded scholarships and loan forgiveness for behavioral health providers, particularly those trained in high-need evidence based therapies.
  • Develop a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) program within the Technical College System of Georgia to help meet the state’s need for a larger autism workforce.
  • Develop more programs to certify Master’s-level nurses in psychiatric practice, in order to leverage the existing nurse workforce.
  • Leverage the Georgia Apex Program, the state’s school-based behavioral health program, to create a workforce pipeline, with post-graduate training and supervision opportunities.

This report, a product of public-private cooperation, is a timely asset. It has the potential to impact not only current efforts to recruit, educate, and train Georgia’s workforce, but can touch child well-being for generations to come.

Judy Fitzgerald (in 2017)DBHDD Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health

This report offers our first close examination of the need, challenges, and opportunities for forward movement. By understanding the gaps in the workforce, we can better plan for and act on improving it.

Dr. Erica Fener SitkoffExecutive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children

Track the Data

Education & Training

Scope & Practice Environment

Support