New leadership for developmental disabilities, hospital operations

DBHDD is committed to building and supporting a system of care for individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges in Georgia. To achieve this goal, the department is building capacity in local communities to provide easier access to high-quality care.

As the department transitions individuals from the hospital system to community-based care, collaboration between hospitals and community resources is critical. To ensure that each transition is facilitated safely and with focus on individual needs, Commissioner Berry has appointed Dr. Charles Li as director of hospital operations. Dr. Li currently serves as DBHDD’s assistant commissioner of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. He was asked to lead the department’s hospital system because of his significant background in hospital operations and community programs. Dr. Li will direct activities at all DBHDD hospitals and will also serve as regional hospital administrator for Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta, one of the department’s busiest hospitals.

Berry has named Dan Howell as interim assistant commissioner of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Most recently, Mr. Howell served as acting regional hospital administrator for Central State Hospital. Mr. Howell has extensive experience in program administration and has led similar transition initiatives across the country. DBHDD is conducting a national search to recruit and select both a new assistant commissioner for developmental disabilities and a regional hospital administrator for Central State Hospital.

These actions underscore the department’s confidence that Dr. Li and Mr. Howell will be invaluable assets during the transition to a community-based system of care. Under their leadership, DBHDD looks forward to strengthening bridges between hospital and community-based services and providing better access for all Georgians.

National Rx Drug Abuse Summit comes to Atlanta April 22-24

Actress Melanie Griffith will headline Operation UNITE’s third annual National Rx Drug Abuse Summit at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis next week. The organization was founded in 2003 by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-5) to rid communities of illegal drug use, provide support to friends and family members of drug abusers and to educate the public about the dangers of using drugs.

Organizers expect this year’s summit to top last year’s attendance of nearly 1,000. “The Summit takes a holistic approach to the drug abuse epidemic, bringing together legislators, law enforcement, medical professionals, advocates, educators and many other leaders to focus on real solutions,” said Rogers in a press conference hosted by DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry in January.

The Generation Rx Project (GEN Rx), a program of DBHDD’s Office of Prevention Services and Programs, will sponsor the summit. GEN Rx was created in response to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse among youth and young adults in Georgia. The program’s objective is to reduce prescription drug misuse and abuse among 12-25 year olds within targeted Georgia counties, Catoosa, Early and Gwinnett. GEN Rx will have an exhibit booth at the summit and will be providing information about the project to attendees.

DBHDD Prevention Team Leader Christopher Wood will present at a workshop (“Building Local Capacity to Prevent Rx Drug Abuse”) during the summit. Wood will discuss programmatic approaches to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse, and specifically those programs and strategies being utilized by GEN Rx. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, April 23 from 1:30–2:45 p.m.

New director of Deaf Services

Dr. Candice M. TateThis week, DBHDD welcomes Candice M. Tate, Ph.D., as director of the Office of Deaf Services. Dr. Tate is a deaf psychologist fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). She brings over 15 years of experience in therapeutic and assessment services to both deaf and hearing populations. Her work on “Trauma in the Deaf Population: Definition, Experience, and Services” was published by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and has been used as a resource by DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services.

The hiring of Tate reinforces the DBHDD’s commitment to ensuring that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have service accessibility equivalent to that of the hearing population. Tate’s background gives her a comprehensive outlook on culturally appropriate solutions to workforce and system needs across the state. Her informed perspective will help to refine the department’s service delivery model as DBHDD works with providers to employ a workforce that, wherever possible, specifically includes ASL-fluent staff.

Tate holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Western Michigan University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Gallaudet University (2005). Over the past eight years, she has pursued her commitment of increasing consumer access to public mental health systems via training, consumer input, policy implementation and program evaluation. In 2008, she started Purple Monarch PLLC, which offers a full range of psychological services from therapy to assessment.

Tate’s own hearing loss was discovered when she was two and a half years old. She was placed in a mainstream school and did not learn ASL until she entered the clinical psychology program at Gallaudet. She developed a passion for helping people with access issues when she worked at a group home for individuals with developmental disabilities during her last two years of undergraduate studies. The experience inspired her to pursue a career in mental health focusing on linguistic and cultural accessibility.

Tate was raised in Montana but has worked across the United States with varied populations in a wide range of settings, including Rochester, NY; Washington, DC; Denver, CO; and rural Montana. Her exposure to different communities gives her a strong cross-cultural perspective. “I am committed to working within Georgia’s diverse deaf and hard of hearing communities to develop and expand an array of culturally and linguistically accessible services and technologies necessary to achieve overall health and well-being,” Tate said. She emphasizes the need for consumer input, “we will be listening directly to the communities and will develop these services based on their self-identified and assessed needs for services.”

Not unfamiliar with Georgia, Tate previously lived in Augusta for one year. She looks forward to being back in Georgia and is excited to join the DBHDD team. Her work will center on the implementation of meaningful system changes to deaf services at the state, regional and local level. “I feel honored to be a part of this change, and I believe that DBHDD has assembled a strong and qualified team that will successfully work together to achieve our vision and goals,” she said.

DBHDD is pleased to welcome Tate. Under her direction, Georgia will be well-positioned to become a leader in providing better access to behavioral health and developmental disability services for everyone the department serves.

New interpreter coordinator joins DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services

Deb WalkerDBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services welcomed new statewide interpreter coordinator Deb Walker in February. Deb brings almost 20 years of experience as a certified interpreter by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. In 2003, she completed the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Mental Health Interpreter Training. She has since been involved in the program as an instructor. Deb also held the “Qualified Mental Health Interpreter” designation (awarded by the State of Alabama) for six years and served as the practicum coordinator for the Alabama Office of Deaf Services for three years while working at Greil Psychiatric Hospital in the segregated Deaf Unit. Deb has lived in Georgia for four years and worked as a community interpreting provider before joining DBHDD.

Deb joins DBHDD’s Deaf Services coordinator Amy Peterson and community liaison Barry Critchfield. The Office of Deaf Services provides access to DBHDD services for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind. “Our office is working to make sure access is provided so that people who are deaf can receive services equivalent to those accessed by the non-deaf population,” Walker said. “We are striving to eliminate communication as a barrier to accessing services.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act places the incumbency on providers to offer interpreters for individuals who are deaf. DBHDD’s role is to facilitate training and coordination for interpreters and to help providers find easy access to certified interpreters.

“We rely on mental health interpreters to facilitate communication between the service provider and the consumer. When it comes to mental health for people who are Deaf, the interpreter has to know American Sign Language (ASL) well enough to be able to distinguish subtle variances in communication,” Walker said.

Currently, Georgia’s mental health interpreters attend the same 40-hour training course provided by the Alabama Department of Mental Health that Deb completed in 2003. DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services is working to bring the next two steps of credentialing – supervision and evaluation – to Georgia. Under this new system, participants will continue to attend the course in Alabama, then return to Georgia to complete a 40-hour practicum and an evaluation. All three steps will be necessary to carry the designation of “certified mental health interpreter.”

“Any time you bring an interpreter into a mental health assignment, both the Deaf individual and the clinician have to believe that what is being communicated to each other through the interpreter is correct. How do they know, however, that what is being relayed to and from is accurate if no one is able to monitor the interpretation?” said Walker. “Our goal is to make sure that Georgia has a standard by which both parties can feel confident that the sign language interpreter is adequately trained to handle the nuances that are unique mental health appointments. We have a long, exciting road ahead of us but our sleeves are rolled up, and we’re moving forward.”

For more information about DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services, contact Deb Walker.