Our Legislated Authority

The authority for the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) to receive access to public and private facilities, adults, children, staff and clinical and institutional records in Georgia arises from its designation by the Governor as Georgia’s protection and advocacy system (P&A). GAO is mandated and authorized under federal law to protect and advocate for the human and legal rights of individuals with mental illness, developmental, and other disabilities.

The following United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations citations provide the authority for P&A systems in each state, including Georgia:

  • Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (PADD) Act of 2000, – 42 U.S.C. §15041 et seq. 45 C.F.R. § 1386.19 to 1386.25
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act – 42 U.S.C. §10801 et seq. 42 C.F.R. § 51.1 to 51.46
  • Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) – 29 U.S.C. §794e
  • Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities (PAAT) – 29 U.S.C. §3012(a)(1)

GAO’s mandate is to protect and advocate the legal and human rights of individuals covered by these laws through activities to ensure the enforcement of the Constitution and Federal and State statutes. GAO is further mandated to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect of such individuals if incidents are reported to the system or if there is probable cause to believe that the incidents occurred. 42 U.S.C. §10801(b)(2), 42 U.S.C. §15001(b)(2) and 29 U.S.C. §794e(a)(1).

In carrying out this mandate GAO and the other Protection and Advocacy organizations (P&A’s) nationwide, have broad authority to perform investigations of alleged or possible incidents of abuse or neglect, and to pursue administrative, legal, and other appropriate remedies to ensure the protection of individuals and on behalf of individuals. (See 42 U.S.C. § 10805 (a)(1)(A)(B)(C) and 42 U.S.C. § 15043(a)(2)(A)(B)).

P&A’s are given broad authority to access records and information related to alleged abuse or neglect or violation of the legal or human rights of individuals with disabilities. Access by GAO to records is outlined in 42 C.F.R. § 51.41 and 42 C.F.R. § 1386.22. Furthermore, GAO’s authority to access information is preserved under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) (see 45 C.F.R. § 164.512(a), 65 Federal Register 82594 and 82666).

Access by GAO to facilities, residents and staff for purposes of investigations, providing information and training, monitoring compliance with respect to the rights and safety of residents and inspecting, viewing and photographing all areas is outlined in 42 C.F.R. § 51.42 and 42 C.F.R. § 1386.22.

GAO operates directly under a federal mandate rather than on behalf of third party interests, family or otherwise. We are under a duty to protect our sources of information, reports and records from unauthorized disclosure (45 C.F.R. § 1386.22(e); 42 C.F.R. § 51.45). We are held to the same confidentiality requirements as are providers of medical and mental health services and must comply with all state and federal laws regarding confidentiality of records in our possession (45 C.F.R. § 1386.22(e)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 10806(a)).