HEALTHY MINDS AND BODIES

 

In Georgia, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among youth ages 10-14 and the 2nd leading cause of death for youth ages 15-17.

 

The leading causes of school absences are asthma, oral health problems and mental health challenges.

 

197,000 kids in Georgia don’t have health insurance coverage.

 

430,000 Georgia households with children reported food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why It Matters

The leading causes of school absences are asthma, oral health problems, and mental health challenges.

Voices believes access to quality healthcare and comprehensive insurance are vital for a child’s development. Children without coverage are more likely to have unmet health needs and lack a usual source of care.

Where Georgia Stands

4

Highest uninsured childhood population in the nation

51

of children who die before the age of 18 are Black children, despite making up only one-third of the state's child population

41

of Georgia’s children age 3 to 17 struggle to or are not able to access needed mental health treatment and counseling

Our Priorities

Highlights of Our Work

Increasing insurance coverage for children

Voices is the go-to resource for policymakers when it comes to children’s coverage. We educate legislators on administrative solutions and policy changes that will reduce the rate of uninsured children. We share the significance of parental and caregiver coverage, and explain how expanding coverage through Medicaid is critical for family stability and community economic prosperity.

In 2019, an estimated 197,000 children under the age of 19 in Georgia were uninsured.

The majority of uninsured children in Georgia are eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids®. Yet, many remain uninsured due to issues with eligibility determinations, enrollment and renewals.

Our work in this area:

Implementing recommendations from the Barriers to Healthcare Access for Georgia’s Children report.

Voices’ Barriers to Healthcare for Georgia’s Children report identified and highlighted ten of the most common challenges that people across the state told us they experience when it comes to accessing healthcare and health coverage. In the report, Voices offers a set of recommendations that would alleviate these challenges by changing systems and policies to provide the services and care they need.

Read the Barriers to Healthcare for Georgia’s Children report
Listen To Our Podcasts

Improving access to behavioral healthcare for children

Stressful or traumatic events (such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing domestic violence) along with undiagnosed or untreated behavioral disorders (like autism, attention deficit disorder, depression and anxiety) can lead to a lifetime of unintended consequences such as the delayed ability to learn, unmanaged anger, substance abuse, or even suicide.

In 2019, more than 117,000 middle and high school students in Georgia reported they had attempted or considered suicide.

In 2017, Voices investigated why 41% of children age 3-17 struggle or are not able to access needed mental health treatment and counseling. Subsequently we published the “Georgia’s Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Workforce Analysis,” which focused on the deficiencies in the number and quality of professionals in the mental health field.

Our work in this area includes:

Implementing recommendations from our Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Workforce Analysis

Voices, in partnership with our Child and Adolescent Health Coalition and the Interagency Directors Team, is leading the implementation of the recommendations outlined in our Children’s Behavioral Health Workforce report. The report shows the behavioral healthcare needs of Georgia’s children are not being met. Our in-depth research and analysis identified opportunities to strengthen the workforce in three areas: education and training, practice environment, and retaining high-quality practitioners.

Read Our Behavioral Workforce Analysis

A critical pain point identified for emerging behavioral health professionals in our analysis, and possibly a major contributor to workforce shortages and turnover, is a lack of access to clinical supervision that effectively supplements their academic learnings, allows them to attain and maintain licensure, and assists them in translating theory into practice. Additionally, despite the known impact of providers’ cultural competency on the outcomes of their behavioral health clients, cultural competency training is not a standard requirement for acquiring or maintaining licensure in Georgia.

In order to identify potential solutions, Voices conducted key informant interviews with a diverse sample of behavioral health provider agencies to explore clinical supervision models and ways providers can support and retain emerging professionals through supervision and other related policies.

Read Our Clinical Supervision Brief

Cultivating Trauma-Informed Universities

Trauma-Informed Universities is a multi-year initiative to transform Georgia’s behavioral health workforce into robust, trauma-informed providers. Because trauma training for behavioral health providers is inconsistent, it is imperative that we align this training for our kids. Along with the Interagency Directors Team, Voices has implemented a trauma training pilot at five universities across the state, and will be coordinating internships and expanding trauma training to counseling programs.

Leading the Behavioral Health subgroup of the Child and Adolescent Health Coalition

Voices leads the behavioral health subgroup of the Child and Adolescent Health Coalition (CAHC). The work of the subgroup lead to the creation of the Children’s Mental Health Commission with Voices’ Executive Director, Dr. Erica Fener Sitkoff as a member. The Commission’s work led to an unprecedented $24 million in new funding for children’s mental health services. In 2019, Governor Kemp made an additional $8 million investment in our state’s school-based mental health program, Project Apex.

Increasing healthcare access through school-based and other telemedicine programs

Due to provider shortages in the state’s rural areas, families often travel long distances to access pediatric primary and specialty services

By bringing health care services to where children are: at school, we can increase access to quality primary health care, improve the delivery of health services, and improve the health outcomes for children in Georgia. Voices spearheaded the development, state funding, and expansion of school-based mental health services to 394 Georgia schools over the past five years.

Approximately 96% of Georgia counties have a full or partial health professional shortage.

Our work in this area includes:

Voices’ School-based Telemedicine Project

Voices, along with Emory University’s PARTNERS in Equity for Child and Adolescent Health, is developing comprehensive guidelines for school-based telemedicine programs in Georgia. The guidance will outline how to: enroll children, ensure adequate onsite management, establish effective communication between telemedicine and primary care providers, and implement financial practices, including billing. This guidance will ensure efficiency of telemedicine investments and enable successful implementation of school-based telemedicine services.

Read Our School-Based Telehealth Report

Leading the Child and Adolescent Health Coalition

In 2015, Voices founded the Child and Adolescent Health Coalition (CAHC) in partnership with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (coalition members below). The CAHC unites advocates, service providers, universities, and state agency leaders to advance solutions that improve health outcomes for Georgia’s children and families, particularly  those most vulnerable. We share best practices from communities, illuminate disparities, identify policy priorities to expand what’s working well and, importantly, address what’s not working — such as the disproportionate increase in uninsured children and inability to access behavioral health services and supports.

80+ members from across the state unite to raise awareness and improve children's health.

Our work in this area includes:

While the list of policy priorities will be finalized in May/June, at the forefront of initial discussions are state budget cuts, telehealth, health coverage, food access, and child abuse. More specifically, an extension of the loosened restrictions on telehealth provision (such that providers can be reimbursed for these services and programs remain viable), streamlined access to health care coverage and food access benefits, and multi-sector collaborations to meet the increased behavioral health needs of children.

It is clear that health agencies cannot solve these challenges alone. For example, the digital divide (i.e. disparate access to connectivity) was heard loud and clear as the CAHC discussed what we truly need to improve access via telehealth. The dialogue underscored the importance of whole child policy and cross agency partnerships. Thankfully, the CAHC has diverse membership in background and networks to help make that happen.

Recent big win:

Greater access to Medicaid and SNAP applications online. The Coalition has long called for increased access to Gateway, the state’s benefits portal, which limited application inflow by restricting access to the workday for Medicaid and not allowing online initial applications for SNAP. After a strong, multi-pronged push, 24/7 access for Medicaid was opened and all SNAP applications can now be received online as of January 2020.

Wins for Kids

It's easier for up to 70,000 uninsured children to get health care coverage.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, Voices helped secure the passage of House Bill 163. This bill directs the state to seek federal approval to allow parents or guardians applying for food assistance for a child (via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP”) to automatically gain Medicaid coverage for that child.
Adults and children have more access to telehealth services across the state.
House Bill 307 improves telehealth access for adults and kids, especially those who live in healthcare deserts, have transportation challenges, or have certain disabilities or behavioral health needs.
Georgia expanded newborn screenings.
The FY22 State Budget included an additional $1 million for newborn screening of Krabbe disease, an inherited metabolic disorder that most often affects infants and can cause mental and motor skills deterioration, blindness, and deafness.
Children and youth have more access to school-based mental health services.
Georgia Apex, the state’s school-based mental health program, is expanding to an additional 59 schools statewide, for a total of 630 schools served by the program.
Childhood lead exposure is getting a closer look.
House Resolution 52 established the House Student Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure. The bipartisan committee will look at how prevalent childhood lead exposure is in the state with an eye on prevention and intervention strategies.

Factsheets

Other Resources

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We are a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization advancing laws, policies,
and actions that improve the lives of Georgia’s children.

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