FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who represents parts of Forsyth County and Gainesville, stopped by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce International Engagement breakfast Aug. 30 to talk about local and national issues.
“The international footprint here in Forsyth County is great,” Collins said. “It shows others they can come in and it’s diverse here. Georgia has a great climate for international business.”
One of the most talked about issues across the nation is healthcare, Collins said.
“My hope is healthcare isn’t dead,” Collins said. “The bottom line is what happened in the Senate a few weeks ago, when it didn’t vote on the last measure to send it to Congress, did not kill the bill. It just killed the process.”
Most people thought the process had to start over, but Collins said it wasn’t moving forward at that point in time.
“It didn’t fix the problem,” Collins said. “I defended it all summer at town halls and was not the most popular person in the room by any count. For people wanting to keep the current system, my question back was always, ‘what do you want to keep in healthcare that’s already there?’”
There are four providers in the state of Georgia currently, but almost 90 percent of the state’s counties are represented by one provider, which often is not accepted by doctors, he said.
“At the end of the day, you don’t have an insurance plan and you’re still having the same problems we’ve developed over time,” Collins said. “It’s a system that’s going in on itself.”
For the future, Collins said they’re still pushing for a system that will provide relief.
On a more local level, Collins addressed issues with Lake Lanier.
“What matters to me is the northeast Georgia area including Lake Lanier,” Collins said. “We made a commitment to engage the Army Corps of Engineers. Without any public input, they decided they’d ban irrigation. We went to them, confronted them and we won. The [Army Corps] general actually called me saying they were removing it.”
Collins also said he’s heard plenty about the antiquated system the Corps uses for dock permitting. He said some people have been fired because of the procedure.
“I’ve advocated for firings,” he said. “There needs to be more because it’s ridiculous what’s happening. We’re working with the homeowners and get people calling us all the time. We’re able to get this process going.”
Mental health in the county was another issue brought up. Collins said a piece of legislation has passed on the Criminal Health and Mental Justice Act.
“One of the issues is how do you know if you’re coming up on somebody who’s just belligerent toward the police and want to react, or are they dealing with a mental or substance abuse issue?” Collins said. “Our bill gives more money so we can begin the process of letting officials and officers be able to identify that.”
He also said they are working on issues related to jails such as many people being incarcerated without receiving proper care for their mental health issues.
“We have to stop treating our jails like mental health facilities,” Collins said. “This has to stop. Because of some of the cutbacks on institutionalization and community based programs, we’ve had to think about how we’re putting folks in jail where they aren’t getting their medication.”
Drug problems are often associated with the inner city, low-income areas or gangs, he said, but in Forsyth County and surrounding communities, the people who are overdosing break those stereotypes.
“I’ve toured almost every jail in my district,” Collins said. “Most people think of people in jail who did something wrong and that’s true. But when you have 35 to 45 percent of your local prison population with either an addiction or mental health condition, this is a money and moral issue. We’re spending too much money to keep them in jail and a moral issue because these folks need their medicine.”