Albany ARC launches program to boost physical activity

Albany ARC staff and clients engage in physical fitness activities.

Albany Advocacy Resource Center (Albany ARC) is partnering with the I Can Do It, You Can Do It! (ICDI) and President’s Challenge programs to help encourage people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be physically active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

ICDI is an eight-week mentoring program that promotes regular physical activity and healthy eating for children and adults with disabilities. Fifty-five national sites are participating, including schools, universities and community-based organizations. As an ICDI site, Albany ARC will administer programs that promote a healthy way of living through regular exercise, meal planning and community sports tournaments for staff and individuals.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to be an ICDI advocate,” said Albany ARC’s Director of Programs Sonny Slate. “What is truly impressive about this program is the real person-centered approach that pairs our wellness staff and individual mentors with each participating individual to effectively address their individual health needs. We are able to bring our full collective resources to bear in supporting each participating individual in developing responsible skills and making informed decisions that promote a healthier life style in a truly progressive and fun way.”

The President’s Challenge helps people of all ages and abilities increase their physical activity and improve their fitness through education, easy-to-use tools and motivation. For more information about the President’s Challenge, visit

Albany ARC serves people of all ages with physical and intellectual disabilities in 14 counties across southwest Georgia. More than 800 individuals participate in a variety of programs, including Adult Day Independent Living, EmployAbility, and the Dougherty Leadership Development Institute.

For more information, contact Eddie McCarty at (229) 888-6852, ext. 234 or



Community forums provide valuable feedback about waiver services

Norcross forum
Catherine Ivy, director of community services in the Division of Developmental Disabilities, hosts a forum in Norcross.

DBHDD administers funding supports to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the New Options Waiver (NOW) and the Comprehensive Supports Medicaid (COMP) Waiver. NOW and COMP are Medicaid programs that provide supports to people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want to live at home or in other kinds of community living arrangements. The services offered through these waivers provide supports 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires home and community-based services programs such as NOW and COMP to be renewed every five years. The COMP waiver is scheduled for renewal in late 2015. As we prepare for the renewal, DBHDD is hosting a series of community forums to receive input from individuals, family members and providers about the successes of the COMP waiver program, as well as opportunities for improvement. Because many of the services provided by NOW are similar to those provided by COMP, we are also seeking feedback about the NOW program.

Upcoming sessions will be held in Tifton on February 24 and in Athens on February 28.

Stakeholders are also invited to submit comments online.

For more information about these forums, or to view the presentation, please visit our website.

Profiles in success: Briggs & Associates

Supported employment services offered by Briggs & Associates, a DBHDD provider in metro Atlanta, has helped S. B. find gainful employment after years of living with physical and psychological complications.

As a residential energy specialist for Greystone Power, S. B. works 20 hours per week in a modified position developed by Briggs to meet both her needs and those of her employer. Her job duties include creating flyers and providing staff support for special events, and assisting linemen during big storms.

S. B., who is in her 50s, plans to work at Greystone until she retires. She expressed to her career specialist that she has found peace by being able to afford things that she could not in the past.

New apartment community will provide housing in southeast Georgia

Last month, the Village at Blackshear opened in southeast Georgia’s Pierce County to provide housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities. The updated one-bedroom units with handicap access were completed after a two-year rehabilitation project of the former Heritage Village apartments.

Financed by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in collaboration with more than two dozen private and public entities, the residential community includes a recreation center, library and an office for a counselor from Unison Behavioral Health of Georgia to provide mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities services.

“A village is more than just wonderful buildings, although wonderful buildings help,” said Unison CEO Dr. Glyn Thomas. “But [it’s also] the services we can provide to improve the quality of the lives, improve the health and wellness of all the residents.”

Unison has one licensed clinical social worker and one case manager who provide behavioral health assessments, individual therapy, psycho-social rehabilitation and case management services once a week.

“This has proven to be a great partnership for Unison and the Village at Blackshear, and most importantly, the residents are able to receive most services on-site from Unison staff,” said Janett A. Carter, Unison’s clinical director of behavioral health services.

Unison will provide additional staff time on-site as referrals for residents increase.

Unison Behavioral Health of Georgia is one of twenty-six community service boards in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ statewide public safety network. Unison Behavioral Health of Georgia serves individuals with mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Pierce and Ware counties.

Recovery and suicide prevention in the spotlight at the Capitol on Thursday

On February 5, advocates will meet with legislators at the Capitol for both Addiction Recovery Awareness Day and Suicide Prevention Day.

The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA) is sponsoring Addiction Recovery Awareness Day with the message of “spreading hope through recovery.” Training will be provided on how to advocate the council’s goal of increasing recovery opportunities for those in recovery to work and live in their communities. The day’s events will culminate with a rally inside the Capitol on the south steps.

Advocates seeking to promote suicide prevention awareness will also be gathering to meet with the governor and legislators. DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry and Representative Katie Dempsey are two of the featured speakers on the agenda. Georgia Suicide Prevention Information Network, the program’s sponsor, will offer training on how to voice the organization’s support for legislation to decrease suicide among youth.

Register for Addiction Recovery Awareness Day

Register for Suicide Prevention Day

Profiles in success: Advantage Behavioral Health

E. B. is a 52-year-old woman who receives DBHDD supported employment services and participates in the Georgia Department of Community Affair’s Shelter Plus Care housing program. Ms. B. has a history of substance abuse and incarceration, but she had a strong desire to get her life back on a positive track. However, due to her background, many employers were reluctant to hire her.

Determined not to be defined by her past, she enrolled in a peer recovery program, from which she graduated in 2013, and was referred into supported employment services in February 2014. With the help of her employment specialist, Ms. B. applied and was hired for a position as a housekeeper at a Courtyard Marriott in her community. She has been in this position for four months and has learned additional job skills to help her achieve her employment and housing goals.

Advantage Behavioral Health Systems is one of twenty-six community service boards in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ statewide public safety network. Advantage Behavioral Health Systems serves individuals with mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.

DBHDD announces staged rollout for Administrative Services Organization

DBHDD, in partnership with Beacon Health Options (formerly ValueOptions), has been diligently working to bring to life the vision that began with the procurement of the Administrative Services Organization (ASO). Following a procurement process, DBHDD awarded the contract to the winning vendor on September 16, 2014. The project is now called the “Georgia Collaborative ASO.” A press release regarding the bid award can be found on the DBHDD website.

The Georgia Collaborative ASO will consolidate the functions of several DBHDD contracts into a single, integrated system which supports both behavioral health and developmental disability services. This new and innovative approach will aid DBHDD and our provider network as we strive to provide easy access to high-quality care for the people we serve.

Initially, DBHDD anticipated a go-live date of April 1, 2015 for this new system. As the work has progressed, DBHDD and Beacon Health Options have evaluated and adjusted our strategy with the goal of ensuring that the vision of the ASO is fully realized through a carefully staged execution that supports the DBHDD provider network throughout implementation.

On July 1, 2015, the new quality improvement initiatives, including quality reviews for providers of behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disability services, will be implemented. Also on July 1, 2015, the CONNECTS system, a Beacon Health Options platform will replace the APS Healthcare system (Care Connection/MICP). The implementation of the Adult Needs and Strength Assessment and Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment will take effect on July 1, 2015 in concert with new authorization process supported by the Georgia Collaborative ASO.

The development of the case management Information System for intellectual and developmental disability services is underway with a rollout targeted for the fall of 2015. Columbus will continue to support DBHDD through the Columbus Information System during this transition.

DBHDD and the Georgia Collaborative ASO will be hosting a series of introductory webinars for DBHDD staff and providers in February with additional training and information sessions to be held in the coming months. Information and updates will be provided on the Georgia Collaborative ASO page on the DBHDD website.