Carter Center Campaign Results Show Progress in Educating Georgians About Mental Health Care Rights

Carter Center’s Georgia Mental Health Parity Campaign Elevates Awareness of Mental Health Rights in Savannah and Albany

ATLANTA — At a press conference held during its inaugural Mental Health Parity Day today at Georgia’s State Capitol, The Carter Center released results of its first Georgia mental health parity awareness campaign. The campaign, funded by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, targeted underserved communities in Albany and Savannah in fall 2023. The goal of the campaign was to increase the public’s knowledge of their legal right to insurance coverage of treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders following the unanimous passage of the bipartisan Georgia Mental Health Parity Act of 2022. Surveys taken before and after the campaign demonstrated a significant increase in public awareness of their mental health rights.

“We are heartened by the results of the first mental health parity awareness campaign in Georgia,” said Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Dr. Eve Byrd. “The campaign shows that, while passing the historic Mental Health Parity Act in 2022 was a vital step, we need to continue to educate the public about their mental health rights and closely monitor the implementation of the parity components of the law. We also encourage the public and all mental health stakeholders to stay engaged in the monitoring and implementation of this historic health law and, most importantly, seek care for your mental health as you would for all other health conditions.”

As the leader of the Georgia Parity Collaborative, The Carter Center works closely with the state agencies responsible for enforcing parity laws–the Georgia Department of Insurance and the Georgia Department of Community Health–to assist in facilitating effective rollout of the law, communicating with the commissioners regularly, and providing recommendations on behalf of consumers. The goal is to make the implementation process transparent so that Georgians understand their rights under the parity law.

“Rosalynn Carter left us a clear mandate. She spent more than half a century working to advance policies that ensure equitable access to mental health care for all Americans. This work is an extension of that legacy,” said Carter Center Chief Executive Officer Paige Alexander.

“We will remain vigilant to ensure that the Mental Health Parity Act is implemented across the state and every Georgian understands their right to mental health care.”

As part of the campaign, The Carter Center worked with the communications agency Allison to deliver a multipronged, targeted campaign to educate the public in Albany and Savannah about their right to access mental health care. Mental health stakeholders and consumers of mental health services in both cities were asked to share input on the campaign and share challenges and barriers to the implementation of the law.

Surveys conducted in both cities showed that the campaign increased awareness about Georgians’ right to insurance coverage of treatment for mental illnesses and addiction. From September through November, the Center deployed a wide variety of resources in English and Spanish, including launching the website www.GeorgiaMentalHealth.com, running social media ads, displaying billboards, airing radio spots, sending targeted emails, and running newspaper print ads, digital displays on news websites, and sharing branded content.

Key findings in the post-campaign survey showed:

  • Nearly half of the residents of Savannah and Albany recalled the campaign, or say they have seen, read, or heard about it.
  • The campaign resulted in a significant increase in awareness of rights to coverage under the parity law among women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. Before the campaign, 40% of women cited insurance as a barrier to mental health care. After the campaign, only 10% said insurance was a barrier, representing an improvement of approximately 75%.
  • Perceptions of barriers to care decreased throughout the campaign. Respondents who worried that insurance would not pay for their mental health treatment dropped from 30% pre-campaign to only 13% post-campaign.
  • The campaign led to an increased interest in seeking mental health care for children and dependents. The percentage of respondents making health care decisions for a child or dependent who said they would look for this type of care if needed increased from 38% pre-campaign to 59% post-campaign.
  • The percentage of BIPOC respondents who said they were interested in but could not get mental health care or had not looked for it dropped from 34% before the campaign to 21% after the campaign. The percentage of BIPOC respondents who said insurance was a key barrier to them looking for mental health care dropped from 30% pre-campaign to 15% post-campaign.

The Carter Center held a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol following a series of panels discussing mental health parity at Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the Capitol.

Both events are part of the Center’s inaugural annual Mental Health Parity Day event. Speakers at the press event included Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander, Carter Center Mental Health Program staffers Dr. Eve Byrd and Sarah Phillips, Laura Colbert, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, Georgia House of Representatives, 82nd District and Representative Todd Jones, Georgia House of Representatives, 25th District.

More information and speakers from both events can be found here. The Carter Center plans to hold another public event on Georgia’s mental health policy work on May 14, 2024. Details will be provided on cartercenter.org.

Contact: Rennie Sloan, rennie.sloan@cartercenter.org.

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The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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