Last month, Georgia HB 752, also known as the Georgia Psychiatric Advance Directive Act, was signed into law, and I view this as a big win for patient advocacy. In the same way that a medical advance directive allows someone to authorize others to make medical treatment decisions on their behalf, a psychiatric advance directive covers decisions relating to mental health care treatment.
By completing a psychiatric advance directive, an individual who has already experienced or recovered from a mental health crisis can express his or her wishes in advance about what types of treatments, services and other assistance they would want during a personal mental health crisis. It also grants legal decision-making authority to another person to be an advocate and agent until the crisis is over.
Advocates say that there are a number of benefits offered by psychiatric advance directives, including:
- Protecting the patient’s autonomy and ability to direct choices about their own care
- Aligning mental health care and treatments with care delivered by medical providers, hospitals and other parties in the patient’s care network
- Minimizing the possibility of the patient receiving coercive care or involuntary hospitalization or confinement
- Promoting public and family safety
With this bill, Georgia is continuing down the path of treating mental health as a serious issue that deserves the same care and attention as physical health. I’m encouraged by the progress that the legislature has made this year on behalf of Georgians’ quality of life.