Home Again Targets Kids at Risk for Foster Care

Highland Rivers Health board chair Chief Magistrate Allen Wigington (with scissors, from left), state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), Highland Rivers CEO Melanie Dallas and Tawanda Scales with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, celebrate the opening of Highland Rivers’ Home Again office at 1838 Redmond Circle Thursday.
Highland Rivers Health board chair Chief Magistrate Allen Wigington (with scissors, from left), state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), Highland Rivers CEO Melanie Dallas and Tawanda Scales with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, celebrate the opening of Highland Rivers’ Home Again office at 1838 Redmond Circle Thursday.

Highland Rivers Health and its supporters celebrated Thursday another tool aimed at keeping local children out of the foster care system.
The brainchild of CEO Melanie Dallas, the Home Again program offers customized help for Floyd County kids, ages 8 to 18, and their families with mental health problems.
“In Georgia, as a whole, we don’t do enough to support families in crisis,” she said. “And Floyd is one of the top in the state for the number of foster kids placed outside their home county.”
She came up with a short-term, intensive, program that teaches children and their parents hw to handle the problems — such as depression, drugs, aggression, self-harm and truancy — that threaten to tear them apart.
“We try to get families so they can live in the home together, Home Again,” Dallas said.
There’s one in Gordon County, and the Floyd County office at 1838 Redmond Circle, Suite E, held a ribbon-cutting Thursday. A third is planned for space in Pickens County.
Dallas said the program is funded by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and will soon be a Medicaid-reimbursable service.

Highland Rivers Health therapist Ricardo Bermudez (left) talks with community support staffer Carol Casey during the Thursday opening celebration of their Home Again program office at 1838 Redmond Circle.
Highland Rivers Health therapist Ricardo Bermudez (left) talks with community support staffer Carol Casey during the Thursday opening celebration of their Home Again program office at 1838 Redmond Circle.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, championed the program by working to ensure start-up funding in the 2016 state budget.
Highland Rivers Health board chair Chief Magistrate Allen Wigington (with scissors, from left), state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), Highland Rivers CEO Melanie Dallas and Tawanda Scales with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, celebrate the opening of Highland Rivers’ Home Again office at 1838 Redmond Circle Thursday.
She said many children who end up in foster care come from families with mental or behavioral problems, including addiction. Home Again targets those issues.

Highland Rivers Health board chair Chief Magistrate Allen Wigington (from left), Floyd County Commissioner Larry Maxey, state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), Highland Rivers CEO Melanie Dallas and Michael Mullet, the organization’ community relations director, celebrate the opening of its Home Again program office at 1838 Redmond Circle Thursday.
Highland Rivers Health board chair Chief Magistrate Allen Wigington (from left), Floyd County Commissioner Larry Maxey, state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), Highland Rivers CEO Melanie Dallas and Michael Mullet, the organization’ community relations director, celebrate the opening of its Home Again program office at 1838 Redmond Circle Thursday.

“It could be for the parents. It could be for the child. But it’s to try to get ahead of the situation,” Dempsey said. “We try to keep the family together because, almost always, the child wants to stay with a parent.”
Ricardo Bermudez the program therapist, is currently working with eight families. He said they could be referred through the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice — or by anyone, including teachers, doctors, pastors, neighbors and the parents themselves.
“These are kids who potentially would be moved out of their homes,” he said. “The goal is to re-establish the unity within the families, to stabilize them.”
The Floyd office can serve up to 10 families, Dallas said, but she’s advertising for another licensed therapist and will then be able to double the number.
For information about the program, visit the HighlandRiversHealth.com website, email homeagainfloyd@highlandrivers.org or call 706-784-4175, extension 4702.

Diane Wagner May 19, 2017

view on NorthWestGeorgiaNews.com

Bill to allow people with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts

The Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Bill would allow people with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts to be used for a variety of essential expenses, including education, employment training, medical care, housing and transportation. The accounts would be similar to 529 accounts for college, and are also known as 529A Plans.

In 2014, Congress passed the federal ABLE Act, giving states the ability to create their own programs. Most states have introduced or signed legislation enabling the ABLE Act with Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Nebraska launching their programs in the next few months. Recent federal legislation eliminated the state residency requirement, which allows individuals setting up ABLE accounts to choose any state program.

Georgia’s version of the ABLE Act allows total annual after-tax contributions of up to $14,000 from family, friends, or the beneficiary himself. The balances of an individual account cannot exceed $235,000. Once an account balance exceeds $100,000, Social Security income benefits are suspended, but Medicaid eligibility remains.

Before ABLE accounts, an individual with disabilities was only allowed personal liquid assets up to $2,000 before losing Medicaid benefits.

Eligibility for an ABLE account is limited to individuals whose disabilities occurred before age 26.

System of Care Academy focuses on children’s behavioral health care

IMG_1285-croppedDBHDD hosted the 8th annual System of Care Conference at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott in Stone Mountain. More than 500 providers, agency partners, advocates, youth and families attended the three-day event, which featured expert speakers, panels and workshops on children’s behavioral health care.

System of Care is a nationally recognized model designed to improve treatment and support for children and youth who have a serious emotional disturbance. The System of Care concept puts children and their families at the center of their treatment planning.

“Georgia’s System of Care is about embracing children and families,” said DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, who delivered Wednesday’s opening remarks. “We’re all working together to coordinate efforts to improve the care we deliver.”

The System of Care model emphasizes coordination between agencies and providers that serve Georgia’s children and the families and children they serve. This allows everyone in a child’s support system to focus on what is best for that child, and to minimize disruptions in his or her life.

“We provide better care to children and families when agencies and providers collaborate,” said Matt Yancey, who leads DBHDD’s Office of Children, Young Adults and Families. “Our job at the academy is to answer the question, ‘how can we serve Georgia’s children and families better?’”

Participants in Georgia’s System of Care work together to serve children in their own communities, aiming to reduce the need for out-of-home care in psychiatric residential treatment facilities, foster homes, or under supervision of the Department of Juvenile Justice. To learn more about DBHDD services for children and families, visit our website.

DBHDD focuses on youth during May’s Mental Health Month

Earlier this month, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day with more than 200 supporters at the state Capitol. The event, which featured a panel on school-based mental health services, represents just one of the many ways that DBHDD promotes children’s mental health and the importance of early treatment for youth with serious emotional disturbances.

DBHDD’s Office of Children, Young Adults and Families provides assessment, counseling, therapy, crisis intervention, peer support, clubhouses and other services for youth and their families. Services are targeted toward children and adolescents (ages 4-17), and transition-aged youth and young adults (18-26) who often fall into a gap between child and adult mental health services.

A 2009 report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine estimated that 13-20 percent of children living in the United States experience a mental health challenge in a given year, and that youth behavioral health disorders cost an estimated $247 billion annually. This figure includes costs associated with mental health treatment, lost productivity and criminal activity.

DBHDD is improving children’s mental health care through several initiatives.

Georgia System of Care
DBHDD’s Offices of Children, Young Adults and Families and Federal Grant Programs and Special Initiatives are working with partners across Georgia to build a strong system of care for children’s mental health services. The system of care primarily serves people from birth to age 21 who experience a diagnosable emotional, socio-emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder that impairs their functioning in family, school or community settings.

The Georgia System of Care seeks to change the way children’s mental health services are delivered by bringing together Georgia’s child-serving agencies and organizations to provide integrated care that is comprehensive and effective. The system is recovery-focused and takes a family-driven, youth-guided approach to service delivery. System of care focuses on workforce development, system-level planning, social marketing and support for youth and young adults. Clubhouses serve people with co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges.

The 2015 Georgia System of Care Academy will take place on July 14-16 at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott in Stone Mountain. We will share more information about the academy in upcoming DBHDD newsletters.

Listening, Inspiring and Guiding Health Transitions (LIGHT) Initiative
The LIGHT Initiative focuses on the young adult population and includes development of policy and practice improvements, as well as treatment for first-episode psychosis. The program will offer specialized training and a provider toolkit to DBHDD providers.The initiative is supported by DBHDD’s Offices of Children, Young Adults and Families and Federal Grant Programs and Special Initiatives.

Georgia Apex Project
The first signs of mental or emotional distress often appear when a child is at school. The Georgia Apex Project, supported by the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families, aims to reduce the number of youth with unmet mental health needs which often contribute to poor academic performance. The project supports school-based mental health programs, including early detection of mental health needs, and establishes better coordination between school districts and the state’s community service boards. The Georgia Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health will provide ongoing technical assistance and support to Georgia Apex Project grantees.

Youth Mental Health Clubhouse
DBHDD also supports youth mental health clubhouses for children and families. Clubhouses offer a positive and healthy environment for youth struggling with mental health challenges or difficult family situations. Clubhouse staff help with homework, job placement, peer support, family engagement and social activities to engage youth and help them manage their symptoms. There are currently six youth clubhouses in Georgia and plans to create five more in 2015.Read about youth clubhouses on the DBHDD blog.

For more information, visit the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families on DBHDD’s website.

Youth clubhouses provide safe and supportive environments across Georgia

Standing with Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore in green and yellow shirts printed with “Mental Health Awareness Month; Don’t let it stop you from shining,” kids from the SHINE clubhouse in Bulloch County were recognized this week for adopting an area to clean up and beautify.

The kids in the SHINE clubhouse program learn about community partnerships, attend various cultural events, take field trips to Atlanta, Stone Mountain and other attractions, visit nursing homes and create artwork and crafts to display at Stateboro’s First Friday events.

All these activities work toward the goal of recovery from substance use or mental health disorders by engaging youth and helping them manage behaviors and symptoms.

SHINE clubhouse kids attended the signing of the proclamation by Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore declaring May 3 – 9, 2015 Children’s Mental Health Week. Mayor Moore also recognized the youth for their work on “Adopt a Spot,” a local volunteer program that keeps public spaces clean.
SHINE clubhouse kids attended the signing of the proclamation by Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore declaring May 3 – 9, 2015 Children’s Mental Health Week. Mayor Moore also recognized the youth for their work on “Adopt a Spot,” a local volunteer program that keeps public spaces clean.

“In the clubhouse, youth participate in life skills groups, social outings, educational supports, career development and exploration and other activities that teach them how to maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle. Youth are also connected to resources that will empower them to make informed decisions about their recovery,” said Yomi Makanjuola, DBHDD’s director of treatment services.

DBHDD provides funding and offers support through staff training and site visits in partnership with local providers for two types of adolescent clubhouses: substance abuse recovery support clubhouses and resiliency support clubhouses.

Substance abuse recovery support clubhouses are for youth with a primary diagnosis of substance use disorder.  They provide a comprehensive recovery support model designed to engage youth and their families. Staff and clubhouse members work together to perform the jobs at the clubhouse and participate in social outings, educational supports, employment supports and transitional services. Most of the youth are between the age of 11 and 17 and are referred through probation, the Department of Juvenile Justice, community service boards and other substance abuse treatment programs.

As one component in the overall care that these adolescents receive, the clubhouses are designed to provide recovery support to youth as they strive to improve their life and wellness while decreasing or encouraging abstinence from alcohol and/or substance use.  Participants in the program either currently receive substance abuse treatment at a community service board or they have recently completed treatment at a private facility.

Resiliency support clubhouses are designed to provide a full array of unique services for children and families coping with the isolation, stigma and other challenges of mental health disorders. These clubhouse programs provide similar services to the substance abuse recovery support clubhouses, but also include peer support, family engagement and social activities.

SHINE clubhouse kids clean up their "Adopt a Spot".
SHINE clubhouse kids clean up their “Adopt a Spot”.

Pineland Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, a community service board in eastern Georgia, offers both types of programs, and an additional co-occurring clubhouse program. SHINE is a resiliency support clubhouse that provides after-school care for children and adolescents in the area. Snacks are provided and computers are available to use, allowing kids to do their homework in a safe, supportive environment.

“The clubhouses are not focused on treatment, but on skill-building and exposing the kids to enriching activities,” said Dr. Cynthia Cone-Dekle, director of behavioral health at Pineland.

Pineland also runs IMPACT, a clubhouse for youth dealing with substance abuse challenges. Members in this program are typically older teens.

As youth are discharged from the clubhouse programs, outcome measures have shown a decrease in substance use, Department of Juvenile Justice involvement, and behavioral problems. Parents of clubhouse members have reported an increase in positive social function, school attendance and performance and improved family involvement and relationships.

DBHDD funds nine substance abuse recovery support clubhouses and six resiliency support clubhouses across the state.

For locations of the substance abuse recovery support clubhouses, please see: http://dbhdd.georgia.gov/child-and-adolescent-services

For locations of the resiliency support clubhouses, please see: http://dbhdd.georgia.gov/office-cyf-services#clubs

Join us as we celebrate National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Governor Deal issued a proclamation declaring May 3-9, 2015 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Georgia. In support of children’s mental health, DBHDD and our partners at the Georgia Parent Support Network, Mental Health America of Georgia, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and the Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, are celebrating Georgia’s children and recognizing the unique challenges they deal with related to mental health.

On May 7, a rally will be held in downtown Atlanta. All are welcome and encouraged to wear a green ribbon. Registered attendees will also receive a free t-shirt. Registration will take place at the Freight Depot, and the event will kick off with a rally at the Capitol. After the rally, participants will return to the Freight Depot for a panel discussion on school-based supports for children’s mental and behavioral health.

The National Federation of Families sponsors National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week annually to raise awareness of issues in the field of children’s mental health in the United States. This year’s theme, “Mental Health is Fundamental,” emphasizes that mental health is essential to children’s overall health, and equally important to physical health in integrated care settings.

Children’s Mental Health Day Agenda (May 7)
9:00 a.m. Registration & light refreshments at the Freight Depot in the blue room
10:00 a.m. Rally at the Capitol
11:00 a.m.Panel discussion: “Education and Mental Health” at the Freight Depot (concludes at 12:30 p.m.)

Register: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/childrens-mental-health-day-intersection-of-childrens-mental-health-education-tickets-16677584103

DBHDD kicks off Red Ribbon Week, reminds Georgia’s youth that Real Life is Drug-Free

DBHDD kicked off Red Ribbon Week on behalf of the Governor’s Red Ribbon Campaign, which supports the national Red Ribbon movement started by the National Family Partnership in 1988 to honor federal DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was murdered while working in Mexico to fight drug trafficking. Today, Red Ribbon focuses on educating children about the dangers of drug use and encouraging them to seek healthy alternatives to drugs.

DBHDD provides educational materials and resources to Georgia schools and communities to help them encourage drug-free living year-round. Our efforts culminate annually during National Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31), which is celebrated with activities and events that encourage healthy alternatives to drug use and alcohol abuse.

Approximately 1,500 children from across Georgia gathered at the October 22nd kick off in Mableton. Many of the schools participated in a talent show that featured posters, skits, singing and dancing as expressions of their commitment to living drug-free.

See our event featured in the Marietta Daily Journal.

Department expands services for young adults

DBHDD’s child and adolescent mental health office is operating under a new name: the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families. The new office will expand its focus to include the young adult population (ages 18–26), which has historically fallen into a gap between adolescent and adult mental health services.

“Young adults have become a target population in the mental health field. Access to care at this critical age can make a significant difference in how someone’s behavioral health develops into adulthood. The new office allows us to focus on people developmentally, not just based on age,” said director Linda Henderson-Smith, Ph.D.

The office will continue to support children, adolescents and their families. Visit our website for more information on the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families.

Additional Resources: