Bill to allow people with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts

The Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Bill would allow people with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts to be used for a variety of essential expenses, including education, employment training, medical care, housing and transportation. The accounts would be similar to 529 accounts for college, and are also known as 529A Plans.

In 2014, Congress passed the federal ABLE Act, giving states the ability to create their own programs. Most states have introduced or signed legislation enabling the ABLE Act with Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Nebraska launching their programs in the next few months. Recent federal legislation eliminated the state residency requirement, which allows individuals setting up ABLE accounts to choose any state program.

Georgia’s version of the ABLE Act allows total annual after-tax contributions of up to $14,000 from family, friends, or the beneficiary himself. The balances of an individual account cannot exceed $235,000. Once an account balance exceeds $100,000, Social Security income benefits are suspended, but Medicaid eligibility remains.

Before ABLE accounts, an individual with disabilities was only allowed personal liquid assets up to $2,000 before losing Medicaid benefits.

Eligibility for an ABLE account is limited to individuals whose disabilities occurred before age 26.

DBHDD focuses on youth during May’s Mental Health Month

Earlier this month, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day with more than 200 supporters at the state Capitol. The event, which featured a panel on school-based mental health services, represents just one of the many ways that DBHDD promotes children’s mental health and the importance of early treatment for youth with serious emotional disturbances.

DBHDD’s Office of Children, Young Adults and Families provides assessment, counseling, therapy, crisis intervention, peer support, clubhouses and other services for youth and their families. Services are targeted toward children and adolescents (ages 4-17), and transition-aged youth and young adults (18-26) who often fall into a gap between child and adult mental health services.

A 2009 report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine estimated that 13-20 percent of children living in the United States experience a mental health challenge in a given year, and that youth behavioral health disorders cost an estimated $247 billion annually. This figure includes costs associated with mental health treatment, lost productivity and criminal activity.

DBHDD is improving children’s mental health care through several initiatives.

Georgia System of Care
DBHDD’s Offices of Children, Young Adults and Families and Federal Grant Programs and Special Initiatives are working with partners across Georgia to build a strong system of care for children’s mental health services. The system of care primarily serves people from birth to age 21 who experience a diagnosable emotional, socio-emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder that impairs their functioning in family, school or community settings.

The Georgia System of Care seeks to change the way children’s mental health services are delivered by bringing together Georgia’s child-serving agencies and organizations to provide integrated care that is comprehensive and effective. The system is recovery-focused and takes a family-driven, youth-guided approach to service delivery. System of care focuses on workforce development, system-level planning, social marketing and support for youth and young adults. Clubhouses serve people with co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges.

The 2015 Georgia System of Care Academy will take place on July 14-16 at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott in Stone Mountain. We will share more information about the academy in upcoming DBHDD newsletters.

Listening, Inspiring and Guiding Health Transitions (LIGHT) Initiative
The LIGHT Initiative focuses on the young adult population and includes development of policy and practice improvements, as well as treatment for first-episode psychosis. The program will offer specialized training and a provider toolkit to DBHDD providers.The initiative is supported by DBHDD’s Offices of Children, Young Adults and Families and Federal Grant Programs and Special Initiatives.

Georgia Apex Project
The first signs of mental or emotional distress often appear when a child is at school. The Georgia Apex Project, supported by the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families, aims to reduce the number of youth with unmet mental health needs which often contribute to poor academic performance. The project supports school-based mental health programs, including early detection of mental health needs, and establishes better coordination between school districts and the state’s community service boards. The Georgia Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health will provide ongoing technical assistance and support to Georgia Apex Project grantees.

Youth Mental Health Clubhouse
DBHDD also supports youth mental health clubhouses for children and families. Clubhouses offer a positive and healthy environment for youth struggling with mental health challenges or difficult family situations. Clubhouse staff help with homework, job placement, peer support, family engagement and social activities to engage youth and help them manage their symptoms. There are currently six youth clubhouses in Georgia and plans to create five more in 2015.Read about youth clubhouses on the DBHDD blog.

For more information, visit the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families on DBHDD’s website.

Join us as we celebrate National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Governor Deal issued a proclamation declaring May 3-9, 2015 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Georgia. In support of children’s mental health, DBHDD and our partners at the Georgia Parent Support Network, Mental Health America of Georgia, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and the Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, are celebrating Georgia’s children and recognizing the unique challenges they deal with related to mental health.

On May 7, a rally will be held in downtown Atlanta. All are welcome and encouraged to wear a green ribbon. Registered attendees will also receive a free t-shirt. Registration will take place at the Freight Depot, and the event will kick off with a rally at the Capitol. After the rally, participants will return to the Freight Depot for a panel discussion on school-based supports for children’s mental and behavioral health.

The National Federation of Families sponsors National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week annually to raise awareness of issues in the field of children’s mental health in the United States. This year’s theme, “Mental Health is Fundamental,” emphasizes that mental health is essential to children’s overall health, and equally important to physical health in integrated care settings.

Children’s Mental Health Day Agenda (May 7)
9:00 a.m. Registration & light refreshments at the Freight Depot in the blue room
10:00 a.m. Rally at the Capitol
11:00 a.m.Panel discussion: “Education and Mental Health” at the Freight Depot (concludes at 12:30 p.m.)


DBHDD kicks off Red Ribbon Week, reminds Georgia’s youth that Real Life is Drug-Free

DBHDD kicked off Red Ribbon Week on behalf of the Governor’s Red Ribbon Campaign, which supports the national Red Ribbon movement started by the National Family Partnership in 1988 to honor federal DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was murdered while working in Mexico to fight drug trafficking. Today, Red Ribbon focuses on educating children about the dangers of drug use and encouraging them to seek healthy alternatives to drugs.

DBHDD provides educational materials and resources to Georgia schools and communities to help them encourage drug-free living year-round. Our efforts culminate annually during National Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31), which is celebrated with activities and events that encourage healthy alternatives to drug use and alcohol abuse.

Approximately 1,500 children from across Georgia gathered at the October 22nd kick off in Mableton. Many of the schools participated in a talent show that featured posters, skits, singing and dancing as expressions of their commitment to living drug-free.

See our event featured in the Marietta Daily Journal.

Department expands services for young adults

DBHDD’s child and adolescent mental health office is operating under a new name: the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families. The new office will expand its focus to include the young adult population (ages 18–26), which has historically fallen into a gap between adolescent and adult mental health services.

“Young adults have become a target population in the mental health field. Access to care at this critical age can make a significant difference in how someone’s behavioral health develops into adulthood. The new office allows us to focus on people developmentally, not just based on age,” said director Linda Henderson-Smith, Ph.D.

The office will continue to support children, adolescents and their families. Visit our website for more information on the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families.

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