Success Story: Helen, Waycross

Easter Seals Southern Georgia, Satilla Solutions

Helen, 62, lived at Central State Hospital for 41 years before moving into a Waycross apartment in 2011. She shares the two-bedroom home with Jeannette, another Easter Seals client. Both ladies receive around-the-clock supports from their caregivers. Helen is primarily non-verbal but communicates with, “hey” and by humming. She understands most everything that is said to her even when she appears not to.

Easter Seals Southern Georgia Executive Director Beth English said that since moving into her own home, Helen’s personality has blossomed. Helen loves to get attention. She likes going out in the community and socializing with other people, and her appearance is very important to her. She always wants to look nice and have her makeup and lipstick on. Her hair has to be fixed exactly the same way each time she goes out. It is important for Helen to feel pretty, and she likes to receive compliments. She carefully selects her clothing and always accessorizes with jewelry, particularly watches and rings.

Helen loves to go to the mall and look in the shops. She values spending time with her peers and is always excited when her bus comes to pick her up for outings. At home, she likes to play games and watch TV. Her favorite channel is TVLand.

Since moving into her apartment, Helen has demonstrated to Easter Seals staff and to her peers that she really enjoys her home and that she likes spending time with those around her. Helen recently wrapped up another season with the Miracle League, where she participated in the games, laughing and yelling “hey” to others as they played ball.  Helen also attends a local church, where she has even participated as an “honorary usher.”

Augusta walks to support recovery

On June 21, DBHDD, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and the Georgia Parent Support Network hosted a recovery walk in Augusta to increase awareness about recovery and local community-based services to support individuals who are struggling with a mental health challenge or substance abuse disorder.


Walking Together in Recovery is a wonderful celebration of the important journey so many of us make to recovery,” said DBHDD’s director of recovery transformation, Mark Baker. “It is critical for people to know that they do not have to face this road alone.”


More than 100 people attended, including family members of those approximately 40 participating in the mile-long walk that began at the Augusta Common and followed the Savannah River. Activities included a live band made up of individuals living in recovery, a cookout and games for children. After the walk, attendees shared recovery stories while they enjoyed lunch and music between presentations. “Through this important event, people were able to come together, share their stories and heal. That process is very empowering,” Baker said.


DBHDD, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other local providers of mental health and addictive disease recovery services set up tables to offer recovery information and resources. The organizers plan to make Walking Together in Recovery an annual event.

Photo credit: Mark Baker

Engaging with leaders in municipal government

DBHDD attended the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual conference in Savannah. Commissioner Berry spoke on a panel at the meeting of the association’s Community Development Policy Committee. Berry discussed new community-based services and shared success stories with members of the committee chaired by Councilmember Ruth Bruner of Gainesville. Other panelists included Representative Patty Bentley (D-Reynolds), Department of Community Affairs Deputy Commissioner Brain Wilson and Rome Assistant City Manager Sammy Rich.

Department staff and partners also participated in the convention’s expo, where they had the opportunity to speak with mayors and city council members about community-based services, including our new behavioral health crisis centers in region 4. We were proud to showcase our broad network of community partners that provide easy access to high-quality care across Georgia. Many thanks to our CSBs which provided us with handouts for their regions, and especially to Jeannette Bacon and Melody Wente in our region 5 office and David Crews and Amanda Tillman of Gateway Behavioral Health Services for taking time to help at our booth.

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(L-R) Amanda Tillman, Commissioner Frank Berry, Melody Wente and Angelyn Dionysatos (Photo credit: Chris Bailey)

View more photos from the convention.

Celebrating the long road home: 15 years of Olmstead

Commissioner Berry speaks at the Carter Center.  (Photo credit: Chris Bailey)

June 22 marked the 15th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to live fully integrated in their communities. This historic ruling continues to shape DBHDD’s service delivery system, which is focused on providing easy access to high-quality care for all of the people we serve.

DBHDD joined the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the U.S. Department of Justice at the Carter Center on June 23 to celebrate individuals who are living meaningful and fulfilling lives in the community because of Olmstead. Commissioner Frank Berry gave an update on the progress Georgia has made to help individuals with behavioral health challenges and developmental disabilities receive high-quality services in community-based settings that allow them to live lives of recovery and independence.

To honor these individuals, we will feature Olmstead success stories, provided by our CSBs and other partners, regularly in our e-postcard. To send us your story, please email

DBHDD clients participate in “Artwork Extravaganza!” at Troy University

View Point Health, DBHDD’s community service board serving Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties, recently held an art exhibit at Troy University. The exhibit, “Artwork Extravaganza!,” featured original pieces from clients served by View Point and showcased creative ways in which art can assist recovery for people struggling with behavioral health challenges.

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Art is often used to educate people about mental illness and to reduce the stigma surrounding it. Both are key components to improving and strengthening our mental health care system. One of the biggest barriers to effective mental health treatment is the tendency for affected individuals to avoid expressing themselves. This prevents them from addressing the concerns and can even exacerbate the illness. Creative approaches like artwork are beneficial because visual expression is less likely to be judged critically. It allows people to feel a sense of safety in expressing themselves. DBHDD salutes View Point Health for seizing this opportunity to transform creativity into therapy, bring awareness to mental health and shed light on the art of recovery.

Aspire engages first responders to better serve people with behavioral health challenges

Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services recently hosted a luncheon for law enforcement and other first responders in appreciation of their service to the community. Aspire staff provided information on dealing with individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

“Aspire’s goal is to work closely with first responders, improve accessibility of behavioral health support services in the communities, improve response time to crisis intervention in the community, and decrease ER visits,” said executive director Kay Brooks.

Staff gave a brief update on community behavioral health services in the eight southwest Georgia counties the agency serves and provided information about Aspire’s 24/7 walk-in crisis center in Albany. The first responders also had the opportunity to share some of the challenges they face when handling crisis situations.

“Law enforcement and other first responders are invaluable in behavioral health crisis situations,” Brooks said. “Aspire staff are committed to assisting our first responders to quick accessibility to behavioral health services, whether crisis intervention in the community, or at our walk-in crisis center.”

Aspire has scheduled follow-up visits with first responder staff to continue the dialog started during the luncheon. A strong partnership with local law enforcement and emergency personnel will help ensure that people needing crisis and other behavioral health services receive fast and effective care to meet their immediate and long-term needs.

Aspire is part of DBHDD’s statewide network of community service boards and provides behavioral health and developmental disability services in Baker, Calhoun, Dougherty, Early, Lee, Miller, Terrell and Worth counties.

See the press coverage of the luncheon from WALB and Fox 31.