CSB spotlight: Aspire works with local law enforcement

Jenny McIver, Georgia Department of Corrections; Telly Hartman, Albany probation office; and Nick Perry, Georgia Department of Corrections probation office

Albany-based Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services, a community service board that serves eight southwest Georgia counties, is partnering with local law enforcement and stakeholders to address behavioral health crisis response in the community. The Albany Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Training is a collaborative effort between Aspire, the Albany Police Department, Albany State University (ASU) and the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Albany probation office.

Roger Haggerty, safety & security officer; Sandra Myers, chief personnel officer; Deneen Burnett, performance improvement coordinator and compliance officer; Elizabeth McQueen, LPC, chief clinical officer; and Dennis Addison, Jr., IT manager - Aspire BHDD
Roger Haggerty, safety & security officer; Sandra Myers, chief personnel officer; Deneen Burnett, performance improvement coordinator and compliance officer; Elizabeth McQueen, LPC, chief clinical officer; and Dennis Addison, Jr., IT manager – Aspire BHDD

Fifty-six members of the law enforcement community, including emergency services personnel, probation officers, nurse managers, counselors, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and others from Dougherty, Decatur, Mitchell, Worth and surrounding counties, participated in the first training. Representatives from the ASU Police Department, ASU Counseling and Student Disability Services, Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, Albany Police Department, Sylvester Police Department, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Department of Corrections’ probation offices in Albany, Camilla and Tifton, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles’ Albany office attended.

ASU Chief John Fields; Nick Perry, Georgia Department of Corrections probation office; Telly Hartman, Albany probation office; Sandra Myers, chief personnel officer (Aspire); Captain Michael Persley, Albany Police Department; and Chief Kimberly Persley, Albany probation office

The training session included an overview of Aspire’s mission and services, behavioral health updates, and early intervention and crisis protocols. Deneen Burnett, Aspire’s performance improvement coordinator and compliance officer, and Elizabeth McQueen, LPC, Aspire’s chief clinical officer, led the session. Captain Michael Persley with Albany Police Department, Chief Kimberly Persley, with Albany probation office, ASU Chief John Fields, were instrumental in the planning for and collaboration on this successful event. Aspire anticipates future training sessions and collaborative efforts to support behavioral health crisis intervention. For more information, contact Aspire’s chief personnel officer, Sandra Meyers, at 229.430.4433.

New leadership for Georgia Collaborative ASO

DBHDD’s new administrative services organization, the “Georgia Collaborative ASO,” will bring measurable improvements to coordination and efficiency across the behavioral health and developmental disability service network in Georgia. The initiative will be implemented through a partnership with ValueOptions, a national health care improvement firm, and several subcontractors.

Anna McLaughlin

The project represents DBHDD’s ongoing commitment to improve outcomes for the people we serve. “This is a great opportunity for Georgia to build an integrated service system,” said Anna McLaughlin, DBHDD’s new director of ASO coordination. McLaughlin, who previously served as the department’s Region 3 transition coordinator, will spearhead DBHDD’s efforts in the initiative. Prior to joining DBHDD in 2013, McLaughlin spent 20 years in the nonprofit mental health field. She holds a master’s in conflict management, and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

Jason Bearden Headshot
Jason Bearden

Working alongside McLaughlin is longtime partner of DBHDD Jason Bearden, who was chosen by ValueOptions as the CEO of the Georgia Collaborative. Bearden most recently served as CEO of Highland Rivers Health, one of DBHDD’s community service boards. Prior to his tenure at Highland Rivers, Bearden worked in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget under the health and human services division.

“The new Georgia Collaborative ASO will serve as a key strategy to help accomplish DBHDD’s mission to provide easy access to high-quality care for individuals throughout Georgia receiving behavioral health and developmental disability services,” Bearden said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this new initiative that will reduce unnecessary administrative burdens for providers while facilitating system transparency through information-sharing among individuals, providers and policy makers. I look forward to continuing to work with DBHDD to promote an outcomes-driven and recovery-oriented system of care for Georgia’s behavioral health and developmental disability communities.”

McLaughlin and Bearden bring a host of expertise and enthusiasm that will drive the Georgia Collaborative to be an effective instrument for increasing coordination and efficiencies throughout DBHDD’s service system while adding new deliverables and accountability measures, all leading to better care delivery. “I really get excited when I have the opportunity to help bring about change that will make a positive impact on people’s lives,” McLaughlin said.

The collaborative will meet with providers and stakeholders to discuss the transition and implementation beginning early next year. Look for updates and new information as this exciting project moves forward.

Announcement from Dan Howell, division director for developmental disabilities

DBHDD is looking for interested stakeholders to become members of the DD Advisory Council.

The council advises the Division of Developmental Disabilities and DBHDD on matters relating to care and service for people with developmental disabilities. Specifically, the council:

  • Assists the division in assuring that the department’s services and programs for people with developmental disabilities reflect adherence to the standard of “best practice” while providing quality services in a cost-effective manner
  • Recommends improvements to existing programs, as well as the development and implementation of additional programs for people with developmental disabilities in Georgia
  • Reviews DBHDD’s policies and policy revisions, and makes recommendations regarding the adherence to the department’s mission and the cost of proposed policies and amendments
  • Facilitates communication among department staff, providers, service recipients, parents, guardians and advocates of people with developmental disabilities, and other public and private entities involved in delivering services to  people with developmental disabilities

DD Advisory Council members serve a period of two years. Meetings are held in person at least six times a year, with subcommittee workgroups meeting at least four times a year. Conference calls and GoToMeetings may be an additional six times a year.

If you are interested in applying to become a member, please fill out the application form on the DBHDD website. Applications will be accepted until January 2, 2015.

Profiles in Success: Ronnie

River Edge Behavioral Health Center

When Bonnie moved from Wisconsin to Georgia in the early 1990s, she hoped her mom and brother, Ronnie, would follow. After a visit to the South over the winter, they did. Ronnie, who has a developmental disability, lived with their mom until she passed in 1996.

Photo credit: River Edge
Photo credit: River Edge

Bonnie accepted the responsibility as his primary caregiver with love and compassion, but she also knew Ronnie could, and should, have the opportunity to be more independent. Ronnie participated in community access day services, but as a full-time teacher, being able to meet Ronnie’s needs often required creative scheduling on Bonnie’s part. The residential coordinator of River Edge suggested that Ronnie could live more independently. River Edge helped Bonnie navigate the application and qualifying process to find a home for Ronnie. He now lives with three other adults in a neighborhood with independence supports provided by River Edge.

Bonnie says that Ronnie living in his own home has allowed him to broaden his horizons while allowing her to take care of herself. “Family members shouldn’t be afraid to let go,” said Bonnie. “Too often, we hang on trying to provide all the care needed – more out of guilt than anything.” Bonnie is grateful for the specialized services that help Ronnie achieve independence, but most importantly, she still has a wonderful relationship with her brother. “I have been an active sister and freely express my feelings about Ronnie’s needs and the care he receives,” she said. “River Edge listens and responds.”

Unison brings recovery technology to Southeast Georgia

Jeffrey (left) showing his case manager Donald Holland how he’s set up myStrength to send him encouragement and supportive alerts at times of the day he’s most likely to experience depression. Photo credit: Unison.
Jeffrey (left) showing his case manager Donald Holland how he’s set up myStrength to send him encouragement and supportive alerts at times of the day he’s most likely to experience depression. Photo credit: Unison.

Unison Behavioral Health in Waycross is innovating how it treats individuals with behavioral health challenges. A new partnership with myStrength, Inc. allows Unison’s clients to access treatment and supports by the click of a button. MyStrength is a mobile- and web-based application that offers a range of resources to improve mental health and overall well-being. Using their smart phones, tablets or personal computers, clients are now taking advantage of eLearning programs and personalized resources to support mental health and addictive disease recovery.

Implemented in July, myStrength is already making a big impact on the people served by Unison’s recovery programs, according to Director of Outpatient Services Tiffany Henderson. “MyStrength makes it easy for clients to get started right away. In our first month, we had 69 clients begin using the application,” she said.

Clients receive a user name, and they are able to set up their private, personalized website to access through their phone or computer. MyStrength offers a range of evidence-based interactive tools and daily inspirations tailored to their specific recovery needs. “Many of our clients use mood tracker to identify what triggers and times of day they’re most likely to have symptoms and then set up custom tools and alerts to better manage those times,” Henderson said. “We also love the fact that myStrength is completely self-directed so it’s up to each person how they wish to use it or whether they want to share their work with others.”

Jeffrey (left) succeeding in his personal recovery with myStrength
Jeffrey (left) succeeding in his personal recovery with myStrength
Angel (left) with Child and Family Therapist Rachel Arnold
Angel (left) with Child and Family Therapist Rachel Arnold

At the age of 55, Jeffrey found himself facing debilitating depression. In March 2014, he became homeless. He struggled to find hope and the means to get through the day. In July, Jeffrey’s intensive case manager introduced him to myStrength. Jeffrey is energized by what the new resource can do. Through his smart phone, he uses the mood tracker and motivational video tools to manage his depression. “MyStrength has given me the strength to carry on and push through each day between my sessions,” said Jeffrey.

Clients throughout Unison’s mental health and addictive disease programs are discovering new ways to use the mobile application. Twelve-year-old Angel, who is in Unison’s child and family program, struggled with self-esteem due to challenging events in her life. MyStrength has offered her new ways to cope with bullying and other difficult circumstances.

For many people, recovery means having a day-to-day awareness of personal wellness. Although recovery programs are very effective, the amount of time clients spend out-of-session working towards recovery is much greater than the time they spend in program sessions. MyStrength bridges the gap by providing Unison’s clients with easy-to-use tools they can access at any time during their daily lives. Because myStrength has become such a great resource for clients, Unison has also made it available to staff and board members.

The implementation of myStrength supports Unison’s vision of creatinghealthy, vibrant, caring communities where all persons have the opportunity to live productive, meaningful lives.Unison is one of DBHDD’s 26 community service boards and a leading provider of behavioral health and developmental disability services in southeast Georgia. For more information on about myStrength, contact Tiffany Henderson at thender@unisonbh.com or visit Unison online.