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State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) says she’s been working over 13 years on legislation that would allow those diagnosed with mental illness to have input in how they would like to be treated by physicians if they suffer a mental crisis situation. Monday, the Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, led a discussion on HB 752 — the Psychiatric Advance Directive — along with Dr. Peter Ash, who directs the Psychiatry and Law Service at Emory University, and Attorney Daniel Munster.

Both Ash and Munster have been working with Cooper and other legislators to craft the legislation that made it to a second reading in the House during the 2021 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

“We have been working on this issue for 13 years — and this session will make it 14,” said Cooper, main sponsor of HB 752. “Today, we have Mr. Munster representing the Georgia Bar and psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ash working together. When you have doctors and attorneys coming together to support a bill, you know you have a good bill. We feel like this is a good one.”

According to those presenting the legislation Monday, this bill “closes a number of gaps” and allows patients diagnosed with mental illness to direct their own care. It also allows them to appoint an agent to act on their behalf if needed.

According to Cooper, approximately 25 states currently have Psychiatric Advance Directives. This legislation would “allow a competent adult to express his or her mental health care treatment preferences and desires directly through instructions written in advance and indirectly through appointing an agent to make mental health care decisions on behalf of that person.” HB 752 would amend current Titles 16, 29, 31, 37, and 49 of the O.C.G.A.

Ash says would also provide medical providers with critical insight when working with patients, including the patient’s desires and directives on how they want to be treated.

It would also provide the patient’s history to medical providers. “As a psychiatric nurse, I can assure you this would be a big advantage,” Cooper said. “Not only does it provide useful information to doctors and nurses, it empowers the patient.

“Having seen from the pandemic how widespread mental illness is, this legislation would help that population greatly,” Cooper added.

Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta) said he felt the portion of the legislation that allows the patient to appoint an agent is “an amazing piece of this bill.”

“Just having someone who knows the patient’s desire and can speak on their behalf is amazing. I really like that,” said Newton.

According to those presenting the legislation, this proposed bill has the support of “Who’s Who of Mental Health organizations” including the Georgia Mental Health Network, Medical Association of Georgia, the Carter Center Mental Health Program.

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