Carter Center gives update on mental health care and education campaign in Georgia

The Carter Center held a news briefing at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday to show the results of its first state mental health parity awareness campaign.

Building on a mission held dearly by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Carter Center said they remained committed to providing education and equality, when it comes to mental health care across Georgia.

At Thursday’s briefing, to inaugurate Mental Health Parity Day, the Carter Center said they’d already seen a significant increase in public awareness of mental health rights.

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To start their campaign, which began after the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2022, the Carter Center said underserved communities in Albany and Savannah were targeted for education on the topic this past fall.

The goal of the campaign, according to the Carter Center, was to increase the public’s knowledge of their legal right to insurance coverage of mental illness and substance use disorder treatments.

“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,” Carter Center Chief Executive Officer Paige Alexander said in a statement.

As part of the campaign, the Carter Center worked with Allison, a communications agency, to “deliver a multipronged, targeted campaign to educate the public,” involving mental health stakeholders and consumers in Albany and Savannah.

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The Carter Center conducted surveys in both cities to see how much awareness was created through the education campaign.

“We are heartened by the results of the first mental health parity awareness campaign in Georgia,” Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Dr. Eve Byrd said in a statement. “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.”

According to the Carter Center, the survey results 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.

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