ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Day 19 of the 40 day legislative session is now in the books at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.

One bill that is making its way through the state legislature is a “Co-responder” bill which would assign a mental health expert to mitigate crime scenes.

State lawmakers say a new co-responder bill — would provide additional back-up for police officers and de-escalate tense encounters.

State Senator Ben Watson (R) Savannah, Co-sponsor of the Bill said, “And that statistic turned around dramatically.  It went from 90% being arrested to 10% being arrested and the 90% would be plugged into a behavioral crisis center.”

State lawmakers say this would help reduce gang related crimes, hostage stand offs and violent crimes by having a licensed counselor on scene.

Senator Watson said, “They would get treatment for a few days, and that’s how we address behavioral health, mental health issues and substance abuse issues. That’s the way we should be doing it – the jail is not a place for situations like that.”

Lawmakers say income inequality has played a crucial role in exacerbating crimes during the pandemic– and that it’s imperative to fund mental health.

State Senator Larry Walker (R) Macon, GA said, “The isolation, the mental health aspect of covid,  with the lack of socializing with other people, and stress and it’s been a perfect storm and this is a way we can back the blue.”

Lawmakers say the co-responder bill would treat non-violent offenders medically instead of just placing them in jail.

Senator Watson said, “Sociopaths — which are not curable —  when they are committing crimes.  They need to be in jail. If you look at who are mental health, substance abuse issues,  or are violent, they need to be in jail. But we need to address those who are not violent in accountability courts and are treatable.”

State lawmakers in the senate will vote on senate bill 403 — titled “Georgia behavioral health and peace officer co-responder act— and it would repeal previous conflicting laws. If it passes, it will move over to the house.

Cross over day this year is March 15th — when bills move to the other chamber, while April 4th is the last day for the 40 day legislative session.