Quarterbacking Your (Mental) Health Care

Have you ever had a loved one experience a mental health crisis that has left them unable to temporarily manage their affairs?

You are not alone as millions of Americans suffer from mental health problems. For years, Georgia law has allowed individuals to designate an agent to handle financial or healthcare matters, should said individual become incapacitated, through the use of Financial Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directives. But Georgia law did not have any mechanism to allow someone to designate an agent for mental health matters in the event of incapacity. Georgia has finally joined the ranks of other states, such as Florida, New York, California, North Carolina, and Illinois, that allow an individual to designate an agent for mental health care matters.

Since July 1, 2022, Georgia has recognized an individual’s right to appoint an agent to make mental health care decisions for them if they should suffer a mental health crisis that leaves them unable to competently express their treatment preferences. An individual can designate an agent and inform said agent of their treatment preferences in Georgia’s new Psychiatric Advance Directive. The designated agent will have the right to receive information “regarding proposed mental health care and to receive, review, and consent to disclosure of medical records, including records relating to the treatment of substance use disorder, relating to that mental health care.” Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 37-11-6.

Georgia’s Psychiatric Advance Directive lets an individual list the symptoms or behaviors they tend to exhibit before the onset of a mental health crisis. It also allows the individual to state the circumstances that tend to exacerbate their symptoms and techniques for de-escalating a mental health crisis. A person can list the names and telephone numbers for their doctors, therapists, pharmacists, and any other mental health care professional. Further, a person can list the types of medications they take, allergies to any medications, and their preferences for treatment and places of treatment.

While Georgia law has allowed individuals for decades to inform designated agents about treatment preferences in the event of incapacity, the Georgia Psychiatric Advance Directive is the first time that Georgia law has recognized such authority for mental health issues. Consequently, Georgia’s Psychiatric Advance Directive allows individuals to provide their designated mental health care agents with a wealth of information on treatment preferences that should help people maintain their dignity in a time of mental health crisis.

For more information, please contact Roland K. Weekley, Associate in the Private Wealth Services Practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.


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