Dekmar to serve on Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission

Published 7:48 pm Friday, September 27, 2019

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced nine appointees to the Georgia Behavioral Reform and Innovation Commission along with Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Speaker David Ralston, who each named six appointees, and Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton, who announced three appointees.

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar was selected as one of Ralston’s appointees. 

The commission’s 24 members will be tasked with examining Georgia’s behavioral health services.

“This legislative session, we allocated $20 million for local health departments to better treat mental health issues and doubled funding for the successful APEX program in Georgia schools to help students in crisis,” Kemp said in a press release. “Working together with communities and families, this commission of legislators, judges, subject-matter experts and citizens will now examine how the state can improve access and delivery of behavioral health services for the people of Georgia.”

The governor signed into law House Bill 514 that created the commission. According to the legislation the commission was created to address the following: 

4To conduct a comprehensive review of the behavioral health system in Georgia including behavioral health services and facilities in the state

4To identify behavioral health issues in children, adolescents and adults

4To identify the role the educational system has in the identification and treatment of behavioral health issues

4To identify the impact behavioral health issues have on the court system and correctional system

4To identify the legal and systemic barriers to treatment of mental illnesses, workforce shortages that impact the delivery of care, whether there is sufficient access to behavioral health services and supports and the role of payers in such access

4To identify the impact on how untreated behavioral illness can impact children into adulthood

4To identify the need for aftercare for persons exiting the criminal justice system

4To identify the impact of behavioral illness on the state’s homeless population

Chief Dekmar and the commission were sworn in Wednesday at the Georgia State Capitol. 

 “I am honored to have been invited to serve on this commission,” Dekmar said in a press release. “The LaGrange Police Department has been involved in working on this issue for more than 15 years. 

Through policy, training and innovations dealing with those affected by mental illness LPD continues to work in conjunction with our partners in the faith community and non-profits.”

State legislators say that they consider mental health to be an important issue that needs to be addressed in Georgia.

“Mental health is an issue that impacts everyone in our state regardless of socio-economics, race, age or gender,” Duncan said. “Because of this, it is vital we take whatever steps necessary to evaluate the things we are doing right, as well as those things we could improve upon here in Georgia. I applaud the members of this commission, who are ready and willing to provide their time and expertise to this important issue. I have no doubt their recommendations will be insightful and meaningful as we work together to ensure our best days are ahead of us.”

The bill passed the Georgia House with 150 for and 7 against in March and passed Georgia Senate with a unanimous vote in April. 

Kemp signed the bill in May, and it went into effect on July 1.

“Mental health is a critical quality of life issue to the citizens of our state,” Ralston said in a press release. “Led by Chairman Kevin Tanner, I know that this distinguished group of legislators and citizens will work together to improve service delivery throughout our behavioral health system. I thank Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan and my colleagues in both the House and Senate for adopting this collaborative approach to achieve better outcomes.”