Advantage BHS consolidating three Athens operations into one location

logo-advantage-behavioral-healthAdvantage Behavioral Health Systems completed the purchase of the former Clarke School District Administration building recently, allowing the community service board to consolidate three locations into one space and enabling the agency to reduce overhead costs while expanding access.

“When we combine all of our Athens behavioral health operations into the Mitchell Bridge building, program efficiency will dramatically increase and the treatment and referral process for our clients will become much smoother,” said David A. Kidd, Advantage BHS Board Chair.

Located at 240 Mitchell Bridge Road in Athens, the 55,000 square foot facility was once the Charter Winds psychiatric hospital. The property includes a 17-acre campus. Construction is expected to begin this month with an opening date of February or March 2017.

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.

Profiles in success: Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia

With a history of mental health challenges and substance use disorders, as well as felonies on record, “Gloria” sought help from Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia (BHS). She was referred to an outpatient treatment program for women. After several months in recovery, she entered BHS’ Shelter Care Plus program, which provides permanent housing and support services to those who are homeless and have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

When Gloria was ready to find a job, BHS connected her with G&B Works, Inc., a supported employment service in Valdosta. They helped her build a successful résumé, researched companies that had openings, and provided transportation to the businesses so that she could apply in person and fill out applications.

“The supported employment program is so vital to people with a background and history such as mine,” said Gloria. “Not only from the beginning with the job hunting process, but with the continued moral support and most definitely with the transportation assistance. Without [that], I would have no other way to get back and forth to work every day.”

Gloria’s work experience and qualifications landed her an interview with Pleats & Creases Dry Cleaners, but it was her honesty about her past and her commitment to a better future that secured her a job.

“She is a productive and valued employee, working to live with the tragic life event of addiction,” said her boss Evan. “If she met the initial employment scrutiny and performed as desired, then it wasn’t my place in this world to judge the past.”

Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia is one of twenty-six community service boards in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ statewide public safety network. Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia serves individuals with mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift, and Turner counties.

Profiles in success: Pineland Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

When “MS” first sought assistance with Pineland Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ supported employment services earlier this year, he was timid and often felt too nervous to speak up during meetings with potential employers. He sometimes did not speak at all.

Pineland’s integrated mental health team provided counseling and case management services, and changed his medication. The team worked with “MS” on conversational skills and conducted mock interviews.

His confidence level rose noticeably when he began to engage in conversation with employers, introducing himself and inquiring about any open positions. At a Georgia Southern University job fair a few months ago, “MS” was hired after an on-the-spot interview.

Pineland Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is one of twenty-six community service boards in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ statewide public safety network.  Pineland Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities serves individuals with mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in Appling, Bulloch, Candler, Evans, Jeff Davis, Tattnall, Toombs, and Wayne counties.

Creative Recovery Art Exhibit

(L-R) DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, Adult Mental Health Director Terri Timberlake, and NAMI Georgia Executive Director Kim Jones
(L-R) DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, DBHDD Adult Mental Health Director Terri Timberlake, and NAMI Georgia Executive Director Kim Jones

On September 9, 2015, DBHDD hosted the first annual Creative Recovery Art Exhibit showcasing the talents of people who live with mental health challenges, and the role that creative outlets like art can play in the recovery process.  Held at the Venetian Room at Hurt Plaza in downtown Atlanta, the event drew a crowd of about 75 people.  It was sponsored by DBHDD’s Office of Adult Mental Health and NAMI Georgia, and featured artwork submitted by people who receive or have received services from DBHDD’s adult community mental health providers.

Research has shown that many individuals in recovery from mental health challenges report the importance of art as an integral component of their recovery journey.  Writing, painting, drawing, jewelry-making, and other arts are enjoyable activities which can also be a portal for expression of emotions and experiences that individuals may not have been able to express in any other way.  Art is used in many community mental health programs in Georgia as a powerful healing tool to help individuals explore deep emotions—the sadness, the hopelessness, the fear, and eventually the relief, the joys, and the hope of a new day.

“Art has been a huge part of my recovery,” said Candy C., one of the exhibit’s featured artists.  “When I had been at my lowest point, picking up my pencils has helped me tremendously.  I oftentimes find myself in another world, a quite beautiful world where creativity takes place inside of me.  When life appears dark, pencil in hand, provides an outlet which is indescribable.  I am so grateful to have this talent from God.  I often find myself drawing when life seems unbearable.  This allows me to find peace and harmony.”

Stephanie T., another featured artist who is now earns a living with her art, shared her enthusiasm about the art and recovery connection: “Give art inspiration—art will give your recovery so much more.  Art is a process, the same as the recovery process.  Art has contributed to my recovery by giving me proper solitude. . . . Because art and recovery are deeply personal, art and recovery is a very unique way of changing people’s attitudes, values, feelings, and goals.  Earning a living as an artist is satisfying and contributes to life through meaning and purpose. . . .  Art is a life-long passion that gives me the perfect balance of a meaningful life despite my mental illness.”

The also exhibit featured several other artists.  Provider agencies represented included: Pineland CSB, View Point Health, Georgia Rehabilitation Outreach, Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Lookout Mountain, and McIntosh Trail.

Profiles in success: Unison Behavioral Health

CP-SupportedEmploymentstoryC.P. is a young man working on his recovery with the assistance of peer support and supported employment services from Unison Behavioral Health in southeast Georgia. He lives with schizophrenia which, in the past, prevented him from working and having a fulfilling life in the community.

Last December, C.P. asked to be referred to Unison’s supported employment services and with the help of his employment specialist and peer support counselor, he now operates his own carwash in Waycross. “I have really good teachers and counselors,” said C.P. “It feels good to get compliments from my customers, and this helps me in my recovery.”

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-Focused Technical Assistance pilots with four DBHDD providers

DBHDD provides community-based, recovery-oriented care to help people live meaningful and fulfilling lives. The department is partnering with the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN), the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA), and the Georgia Parent Support Network (GPSN) to offer Recovery-Focused Technical Assistance. This program supports community provider staff by sharing practices that promote a recovery-focused approach to all services. The organizations involved with this work are part of the Georgia Recovery Initiative, which seeks to promote recovery in Georgia.

“DBHDD, through the Office of Recovery Transformation, is building community recovery partnerships with community providers, stakeholders, and families,” said Office of Recovery Transformation Director Mark Baker, whose team is leading DBHDD’s efforts with the program.

CSB of Middle Georgia staff with program facilitators. Photo credit: Dina McDonald
CSB of Middle Georgia staff with program facilitators. Photo credit: Dina McDonald

Funded by DBHDD, the program has piloted with the CSB of Middle Georgia (Dublin), Advantage Behavioral Health (Athens), Cobb-Douglas CSB (Marietta) and Community Friendship (Atlanta). A team of facilitators, made up of consultants Dr. Dietra Hawkins and Dr. David Stayner, along with Brent Hoskinson and James Guffey of GMHCN, and Owen Dougherty and Tony Sanchez of GCSA, conducted the workshops and are continuing with follow-up technical assistance at each organization.

The program’s goal is to help provider staff make recovery sustainable for the people they serve. “This means supporting people as they move toward the life that they want to live, a joyful and happy life, that is based on their goals, dreams, and aspirations,” said Brent Hoskinson, one the program facilitators. “We are seeing amazing projects coming out of this process that organizations can put into practice almost immediately.”

The Recovery-Focused Technical Assistance program encourages collaboration between DBHDD’s providers on effective strategies for sustaining recovery. “What better process could there be than one that offers to our providers the opportunity to build on what they already know, what works best in their local community, and gives them an opportunity to learn from the successes of others?,” Hoskinson said.

“I was truly amazed at the energy, excitement, and participation during the two-day learning event,” said facilitator James Guffey. “By working in collaboration, as an inclusive team, this really mirrored what recovery is all about.”

Staff at CSB of Middle Georgia, the initial pilot site, gave the program rave reviews. Read what they had to say below:

“I learned so much and am looking forward to working with this group of people.”
Shannon Corso

“My experience with [the workshop] was amazing. I learned so much about myself and my fellow co-workers. I developed a strong bond with many co-workers that I had never met before or knew very little of. It strengthened my commitment to my job as well as the individuals that I serve.”
Ashley Lewis

“I am grateful and blessed that I work at CSB of Middle Georgia and about how open and enthused we all are in the positive changes to come.”
Lisa Clark

“I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. We were visited by many wonderful people, including Dr. Dietra Hawkins and Dr. David Stayner who helped us reignite the fire in the employees here in Central Georgia. Sometimes we start to lose sight, or forget, about what really matters: improving people’s lives. The [workshop] helped us put this back into perspective and helped us realize that change was not as difficult, nor as scary, as it seemed. Now, we have begun some small success projects and we’re also discussing the future — bigger successes. I know we truly have become an even more recovery oriented center with your assistance, support and encouragement.”
Elizabeth Button

“I really got a lot out of the training. It helped me to see that the people we help do have a voice. For me as a recovering person that is very encouraging. It also encouraged me to share my story. I really want to help others find that hope that they too can get well and recover from addiction, mental illness, or whatever the problem is. You can recover!!! How bad do you want to recover?”
Cynthia Thigpen

“When our team started out…, I believed that we would all learn new things. I absolutely had no idea that the two days spent with our Change Team and Change Team 2 members would have been as inspiring and humbling as they were. Dr. Dietra Hawkins, Dr. David Stayner, along with Owen Dougherty, Brent Hoskinson, Tony Sanchez, and James Duffey, were without blemish in their methods of keeping us on task and our eyes and hearts focused toward recovery. It was an emotionally-laden two days, but a wonderful opportunity to build our team relationships, both individually and collectively. It was the absolute best kick-off training to being a more recovery-focused agency that I have participated in during my tenure with the CSB of Middle Georgia. Our clinical, support, and administrative staff, as well as our staff with lived experience are excited to be participating with DBHDD as a pilot with regard to [the] training, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of our labors in the projects that we are undertaking at our agency,  as well as the ripple effect that will occur in our community following our symposium, which is planned for April 10, 2015. The excitement, energy, and inspiration from those days in late February continue to resonate at our agency. We are looking for exceptionally good things to happen here throughout the weeks and months to come.”
Denise Forbes, CEO

Paces Foundation develops new special needs community for View Point Health

A new affordable housing community providing integrated care for residents with specials needs opened in Covington last week. The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on March 25 at the Clover Bridge apartments, which includes 28 one-bedroom units and several shared community rooms. 

 

“Clover Bridge is a beautiful place to live and thrive in recovery. View Point Health is honored to offer individuals experiencing homelessness a permanent supported housing opportunity. Residents are supported by our wide service array customized to meet their individual needs while living in their own apartments,” said Jennifer Hibbard, CEO of View Point Health. 

 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the housing community was developed by The Paces Foundation, which transferred ownership to View Point Health, DBHDD’s community service board for Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties. 

 

“Clover Bridge posed unsurpassed challenges of complexity of interface with the many different partners and government agencies necessary to its completion. The design of the building, apartments and common areas as well as its placement within, and support from, the local community added to these monumental challenges. Paces is proud to have had the necessary skills and experience, garnered over 25 years of experience and more than 2500 units of affordable workforce housing, to weave these many stakeholders and challenges into the wonderful facility which is Clover Bridge: 28 one bedroom apartments for our chronically homeless mentally ill citizens,” said Mark du Mas, president of The Paces Foundation. 

 

The Paces Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and services for low-income residents. 

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.

CSB spotlight: Aspire works with local law enforcement

Aspire2-blog
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.

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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.

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.”