DBHDD On the Move August 2019

DBHDD On The Move July 2019

“Empower – Experts Discuss Mental Health and Addiction.” 
This is panel discussion was moderated by WSB-TVs Jovita Moore at the Cox Corporate Campus.

Georgia Disaster Mental Health Field Response Training class taught by Jeannette David at the Region 1 Field Office. There were 20 people in attendance from the DBHDD, Advantage, Lookout Mountain, American Work, Cobb CSB, Clayton Center, Haralson BHS, and few other small providers.

Region 4 emergency preparedness workshop in Thomasville, GA.

David Sofferin speaking at Dr. Kay Brooks- Hatfield’s retirement reception in Albany, GA

Gov Kemp and Commissioner Fitzgerald Tour EmployAbilitiy

Lorri Smith, Ryan Loke and Cody Whitlock from the Governor’s office toured Georgia Regional Hospital Atlanta with Commissioner Fitzgerlad, Dr. Charles Li, Dr. Mark Cochran, Geneva DaCosta, and Nicola Watson.

2019 Ken Whiddon Memorial Golf Tournament

More photos from the golf tournament

DBHDD On The Move June 2019

DBHDD and Commissioner Fitzgerald were honored to join community partners and elected officials to celebrate the groundbreaking of the newest Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Savannah! Special thanks to the city of Savannah, Chatham County, Gateway Behavioral Health and many others for their innovative leadership and vision to make this vital project a reality.

Below, DBHDD’s Office of Behavioral Health Prevention hosted the State Opioid Response kick-off event Friday, May 31, 2019, at the Delta Flight Museum. Neil Campbell, Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, was one featured speaker.

DBHDD: On The Move May 2019

Spring is in the Air

Spring Greetings! 

On Tuesday, the 2019 Legislative Session adjourned sine die.  It was a very successful session for DBHDD and the people we serve.  The General Assembly continues to acknowledge and support the work we are doing on behalf of vulnerable Georgians by providing millions of dollars in new funding to support items such as the Apex Program (DBHDD’s school-based mental health program), additional NOW and COMP waiver funding, crisis infrastructure and development, substance use disorder treatment, and the continued build-up of vital core services across our state.  While we tracked many pieces of legislation, two key actions will have notable impact our department: the creation of the Behavioral Health Innovation and Reform Commission and the new Office of Health Strategy and Coordination within the Office of the Governor. 

The Office of Health Strategy and Coordination is empowered to bring together experts from academia and industry along with elected and appointed leaders in an information-sharing forum that will explore new ideas and evaluate the effectiveness of previously enacted and ongoing health programs.  The office will collaborate with both health related and non-health related agencies.  It also has the authority to evaluate proposed certificate of need (CON) and State Health Benefit Plan updates. We welcome the opportunity to accelerate Georgia’s focus on data-based decision-making.

During the session, I had the opportunity to work jointly with Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and Rep. Kevin Tanner on the Behavioral Health Innovation and Reform Commission initiative.  The commission is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of Georgia’s behavioral health system and making recommendations for innovation. 

In the enabling legislation, the General Assembly recognized the significant transformation that our system has achieved over the last decade.  I am very proud of this transformation and of the efforts of our team of providers, advocates, and DBHDD staff who have led the way for dramatic improvements in our system, the array of services we offer, and the quality of care we provide to the people we serve. 

As we move toward the conclusion of the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the commission will play an important role in the health care environment of the future.  It serves as evidence that Georgia can exit federal oversight and adopt local strategies for transparency and accountability. As we embrace our next phase of system growth and development, we have a great opportunity to serve by sharing our expertise and knowledge of evidence-based practices.  The commission’s work will stretch over several years and will be composed of 25 members, including a wide range of experts across human service systems. Appointments will be made by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Among those represented on the commission will be psychiatrists, providers, community service boards, advocates, clinicians, law enforcement, educators, judges, and more.  I, along with other commissioners, will serve as an ex-officio member. 

The commission will examine conditions, needs, and challenges in Georgia, as well as best practices and experiences (including what is working in other states), and report annually to the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker.  I look forward to working with the members of the commission. I am hopeful that those who are selected to serve will be forward-thinking in their approach to future services and support the investments required to deliver quality care.

This is an exciting time in the healthcare landscape, and I am grateful for opportunities to embrace innovation and lead Georgia’s public safety net into the ever-evolving future environment.

You can read more about the purpose and scope of the commission here.

Judy Fitzgerald Commissioner, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

DBHDD On The Move – March 2019

Introducing My GCAL

Greetings and welcome to (almost) spring, whether the temperature agrees or not!  We have really hit the ground running this year, and it is hard to believe that we are only two months into 2019.  Thursday is “Crossover Day” at the Capitol, which signals the last day for bills to cross over from one chamber to the other, providing a path to become law.  Health care has been a priority in 2019, and we are grateful for the relationships we have built that allow us to serve as a resource to Governor Kemp and members of the General Assembly.  

Greetings and welcome to (almost) spring, whether the temperature agrees or not!  We have really hit the ground running this year, and it is hard to believe that we are only two months into 2019.  Thursday is “Crossover Day” at the Capitol, which signals the last day for bills to cross over from one chamber to the other, providing a path to become law.  Health care has been a priority in 2019, and we are grateful for the relationships we have built that allow us to serve as a resource to Governor Kemp and members of the General Assembly.  

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of standing beside the Governor and First Lady Marty Kemp when he announced the release of a new tool focused on Georgia’s youth, the My GCAL app.

This app is an additional way for people to connect with the Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL), DBHDD’s 24/7 statewide helpline that provides free and confidential access to crisis and routine services for mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

For more than a decade, GCAL has helped hundreds of thousands of Georgians get the care they need through the crisis and referral line.  However, we know that people under 25 are much less likely to make a phone call for help than any other age group.  They prefer to text and chat online, and our service delivery systems must adapt to be relevant.  During the 2018 Legislative session, Chair Katie Dempsey, one of Georgia’s many champions for children’s mental health, led the charge to secure additional funds to make this technology upgrade a reality.

Young Georgians today are under more pressure than any generation before them.  Rates of anxiety and depression for teens are on the rise. Adolescence is a critical developmental age.  It is also an age when many people are not comfortable telling a parent or teacher that they need help.  It might also be difficult to know what to do if a friend is struggling.  This can have tragic consequences for Georgia families.  In the last two decades, the rate of suicide in our state increased by 16 percent, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth nationwide. 

These facts compel us to craft new solutions and resources.  DBHDD and our partner Behavioral Health Link, which operates GCAL, designed My GCAL.  The app provides the same professional, confidential response as the GCAL.  Users can text or chat with caring professionals trained in crisis management and de-escalation.  The app can also call GCAL, which means they do not need to save or remember the number. 

My GCAL is available on iOS and Android.  Please urge those you love to download the app today.  You might be able to connect someone to lifesaving help.  We are fortunate to live in a state where such a unique, lifesaving resource is at our fingertips.

Judy Fitzgerald Commissioner, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

DBHDD on the Move – Feb 2019

DBHDD Management Academy Cohort #9

2019 is Off and Running!

2019 is off and running! I hope that you enjoyed a season of rest, reflection, and gratitude and are geared up for a productive year ahead. Georgia’s public safety net for people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities has never been more vibrant or more vital to the health care landscape.

As Governor Kemp’s administration steps into leadership, we have heard loudly and clearly that there is a strong commitment to health care improvements, especially in rural areas. As national and state attention sharpens the focus on access to care, we embrace the opportunity to demonstrate our increased accountability and transparency throughout our service delivery system. We also emphasize the importance of the health and support needs of the individuals we serve through our five state hospitals and network of community-based providers throughout the state. With nearly 22,000 individuals served through the NOW and COMP waivers and through state and family support funds, and nearly 160,000 receiving mental health and substance abuse prevention and intervention services, our work is essential to the health of Georgia’s children, adults, families, and communities.

Of course, we do not do this work alone. While I am dependent upon a team of purpose-driven executives and DBHDD team members in every corner of Georgia, we also rely heavily upon the wisdom and experience of our partners.

This recognition of the value of partners is an important element of my reflections on 2018. I am so proud of the partnerships we have strengthened in the last year. Our partners work tirelessly in the face of workforce and funding challenges. Together, we will continue to grow and enhance our service delivery system so that we remain a reliable and accountable partner in Georgia’s dynamic health care environment. When we speak with a shared voice about individuals and families we serve, people listen. There has never been a more important time to promote recovery and independence, as these are the outcomes that real people and communities want to experience. While our priority is building on our strengths, we acknowledge the gaps in our system that require continued attention and collaboration. These gaps will also be at the forefront of our work.

Not only have we deepened partnerships with current allies in the General Assembly and in the community, with Community Service Boards, private hospitals, Sheriffs, judges, advocates, and sister agencies, but we have found new partners in universities, the farm community, Association of County Commissioners, Georgia Municipal Association, business leaders, and others deeply concerned about suicide and the opioid epidemic. We will continue the important conversations that were borne of our shared concerns.

In closing, I want you to know three things you can expect from DBHDD in 2019. First, partnerships will be at the forefront of our strategic decisions. We simply cannot be successful without collaboration and relentless communication. I want people to experience DBHDD not just as a partner, but a predictable and principled partner that seeks to listen and learn as we fulfill safety-net obligations. The second thing that you can expect is that we will continue our drive toward accountability and transparency. Governor Deal and the General Assembly generously supported our buildup of community services in recent years, and we want to demonstrate explicitly the ways in which we are improving the lives of Georgians with the dollars that have been invested. We are not perfect, but we sure are persistent. Finally, you can expect optimism. We believe that the needs of individuals with behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are a reflection of Georgia’s commitment to vulnerable citizens. We know that Governor Kemp’s administration will advance the momentum we have already achieved. We intend to place Georgia at the forefront of states that possess the hearts and minds to deliver effective and efficient care that results in improved quality of life throughout our great state.

We look forward to doing this together!

Judy Fitzgerald

DBHDD On The Move Dec 2018