Voices is the go-to resource for policymakers when it comes to children’s health care 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 Georgia, suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 5-17 in 2021.
1 in 7 children in Georgia struggle with food insecurity.
176,000 kids in Georgia didn't have health insurance coverage in 2021.
Approximately 1 in 4 of Georgia's children under the age of 3 are not up-to-date with their childhood immunizations.
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
Highlights of Our Work
In 2021, an estimated 176,000 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:
Minimizing disruptions to Medicaid benefits post-pandemic.
Voices’ co-facilitates a Medicaid Unwinding workgroup in partnership with Georgians for a Healthy Future. The group is intended to serve as a feedback loop between state agencies, key policymakers, and invested partners.
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.
Stressful or traumatic events (such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing domestic violence) along with undiagnosed or untreated behavioral disorders (like autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity 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 2022, more than 71,000 middle and high school students in Georgia reported they had attempted or considered suicide.
In 2017, Voices investigated why youth in Georgia had difficulty accessing the mental health treatment or counseling they needed. 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 analysis of Georgia’s child and adolescent behavioral health workforce.
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.
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.
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.
Improving Black Youth Mental Health.
Voices is partnering with the Morehouse School of Medicine to co-facilitate an intergenerational advisory council comprised of youth and adults to utilize the Black Youth Mental Health Policy Framework to identify policy opportunities that increase access to effective, culturally competent, appropriate, responsive, and engaging mental health services and supports.
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 led to the creation of the Children’s Mental Health Commission. 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, Georgia Apex.
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. The Georgia Apex Program is now found in more than 731 schools.
152 of 159 Georgia counties (or 96% of Georgia) suffer from a shortage of mental health professionals.
Our work in this area includes:
School-based Behavioral Health Collaborative
Voices, along with The Carter Center and Georgia Appleseed, is leading a strategic and collective effort to strengthen, expand, and sustain school-based behavioral health, prevention, early intervention, and services and supports in Georgia with the goal to optimize limited resources, decrease fragmentation, and expand the work currently being conducted so that all of Georgia’s children have the opportunity to benefit from school-based behavioral health services.
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.
The impact of parents’ poor health on their child is lifelong and can be severe. It can have a long-lasting impact on cognitive ability and socio-emotional development, and can significantly deteriorate a family’s financial situation.
Latino children are almost three times as likely to lack health insurance as White children in Georgia.
Our work in this area includes:
Advancing Health Equity through Policy in the City of East Point, Georgia
Voices is leading the project to demonstrate effectiveness of a methodological framework, structured process, and tool that identifies policies that may create or perpetuate health disparities by contributing to structural racism through a demonstration project in partnership with the City of East Point, community residents, and community partner organizations. We are developing recommendations on policies to reduce structural racism and improve health outcomes by continued input on the city’s Comprehensive Plan; finalizing policy structure and language; continuing stakeholder (including community engagement); and developing an implementation plan.
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.
170+ 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.
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.