ATLANTA -- Georgia officials committed Tuesday to spend millions of dollars to help mentally ill and developmentally disabled people move out of state mental hospitals and receive services in their communities -- but where that money will come from remains to be seen.
In reaching the landmark settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the state will need to come up with $15 million in the amended annual budget and an additional $62 million in the 2012 budget for mental health services, said Tom Wilson, spokesman for the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Other state officials acknowledged that finding the additional money will present significant challenges.
Justice Department officials said the settlement, which still needs approval from a federal judge, will transform the state's mental health system, reducing reliance on mental hospitals while it adds community services.
"It addresses the needs of people who are currently institutionalized who don't need to be there, and it also addresses the needs of people who are in danger of institutionalization," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights.