AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report is pleased to welcome back to the show United States Senator Jon Ossoff. He has been instrumental in the passage of bipartisan legislation which will assist law enforcement and first responders. The biggest news, however, comes with an exclusive on The Means Report – historic funding that will help ensure preventative health care for Georgians in Augusts and Atlanta.

Brad Means: We do want to begin with word from one of Georgia’s top lawmakers. Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, kind enough to join us once again. You know, we just had him on “The Means Report” a couple of weeks ago, but he’s back and for good reason. We originally were going to talk off the top about funding for law enforcement and mental health services, something I know, Senator, that’s been near and dear to your heart, but first, what really is breaking news here on this broadcast, your efforts to expand healthcare for Georgians by way of the Georgia Aid proposal. Senator, please tell us about this big news and what it might mean for us in Augusta.

Senator Jon Ossoff: This is big news, Brad, and breaking exclusively here on “The Means Report”. This has been a long time coming and a lot of work, but very pleased to announce that AU and Grady, so the major hospitals in Augusta and Atlanta, together will be receiving a historic investment in preventative healthcare access for our communities. We’re talking about mammogram services, maternal health, mental health screenings, preventative healthcare for young children. About $300 million coming to Augusta University Hospital System and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta to support access to preventative healthcare in our communities.

Brad Means: And for people watching right now, Senator, this means, and you touched on it just now, but I want to emphasize it, that those who might not have access to quality healthcare, because of what you all have done, now will have it, right?

Senator Jon Ossoff: That’s right, this in particular will help those who may have difficulties with their health insurance or difficulty paying for their healthcare to get that preventative healthcare services, again, whether at the Augusta University Health System or Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. These are the two institutions to which we’re delivering these resources because everybody in our community needs access to preventative healthcare. We don’t want folks to rely upon the emergency room as their doctor of last resort. We wanna make sure folks are getting those cancer screenings. We wanna make sure kids are getting the preventative healthcare we need. We wanna make sure that pregnant women are getting those prenatal checkups that they need and this is a really significant investment in healthcare access for the Augusta area, as well as for the city of Atlanta.

Brad Means: Oh, Senator, that is big news and we do appreciate you sharing it with us here on “The Means Report”. I know the viewers appreciate it and look forward to that funding coming to AU Health and to Grady. Now back to this bipartisan success story that we originally booked you for, and that’s the Senate’s passage of a bill that you backed to fund law enforcement and mental health services. Let’s start with the bipartisan part of it. You and Senator Chuck Grassley got behind this. How were you able to reach across the aisle and make this happen?

Senator Jon Ossoff: Well, as you know, Brad, I always try to work across the aisle to get things done for Georgians. And since arriving in the Senate, I’ve built very strong working relationships with colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats. In this case, I teamed up with my Republican colleague Senator Grassley to address an issue that’s been raised by law enforcement leaders, health professionals, and community leaders across our state, which is the difficulty that first responders have when they’re responding to an emergency or a situation where someone is suffering from acute mental illness. So this bipartisan legislation which we passed this week, again, I wanna emphasize that this isn’t just a bill we’ve just introduced. We passed this in the Senate this past week, will help local law enforcement, paramedics, fire and rescue to train their personnel, to be able to safely and constructively handle situations where someone’s in a mental health crisis. It will also help to deploy what are called crisis response teams, where a highly qualified counselor or psychiatric professional can accompany first responders to those situations. Because the last thing that we want is for those to escalate into violence, that puts either the individual or the first responders’ lives at risk or for that individual to engage in self-harm or, in the worst case, take their own lives.

Brad Means: Yeah, that’s the thing. So many of these calls for our first responders and law enforcement officers are mental health related. Senator, do you hope that this makes so many of those situations come to a more peaceful end?

Senator Jon Ossoff: That’s what we want. We want the best outcomes for folks in our communities who are in distress and need help, as well as for the first responders who put themselves at risk walking into those situations. And I’ve heard consistently from police and fire chiefs, as well as from mental health professionals and faith leaders that this is a constant source of strain is that increasingly, first responders are turning up at the scene and there’s someone who’s in a mental health crisis. We wanna make sure that those first responders have the training that they need to defuse and manage that situation successfully and that they have the support from qualified mental health professionals when they deploy to a scene such as that.

Brad Means: Well Senator, I know the viewers can tell this from our time together, but it is a very busy time for you indeed up on the hill and we appreciate all your hard work on behalf of our veterans, our law enforcement, our first responders, and for taking the time today.