Veterans’ Day Event at West Central Regional Hospital

vetdaywcgrh2016West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, along with three veterans service organizations, hosted a special recognition lunch event for staff, client, and special guest veterans in observance of Veterans Day last month.

The local veterans service organizations included the American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 9, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 12110, and the Marine Corps League Detachment 1402. The mission of these organizations is to assist veterans and their families.

The event was coordinated by WCGRH staff member Brent Eaton, who is also a veteran and member of the veterans service organizations which supported the event. Volunteers who also helped put on the event included hospital staff members of the employee appreciation function team. Guests included Edward L. Richards post commander of AMVETS, Donald Anthony Commander of VFW Post 12110, Mackey Carter Chaplain of VFW Post 12110, Charles Youmans member of AMVETS and VFW.

Regional Hospital Administrator John Robertson welcomed the guests, and Eugene Brown provided the invocation. Brent Eaton awarded 50 staff and client veterans with a certificate of appreciation for their years of service in the United States Military. Veteran and active duty service members represented included the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National and State Guard, and Army Reserve.

58th annual Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade bring holiday cheer to state hospitals

ecrhmotorcade2016Cities across Georgia participated in the 58th annual Georgia Municipal Association’s Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade, donating gifts to individuals at DBHDD’s state hospitals.

The event is named for its inaugural 1959 procession which provided gifts to individuals living at what is now Central State Hospital in Milledgeville. Governor Ernest Vandiver started the motorcade in 1958 to raise awareness for mental health across the state.

“The Mayors’ Motorcade is sort of the centerpiece of the hospital’s holiday celebration because [the people we serve] don’t have an opportunity to go home to their families,” said Andy Mannich, regional hospital administrator for Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah.

According to the association, the fund and gift drive brings comfort items and personal necessities to more than 1,000 people with developmental disabilities and behavioral health needs.

30 years of faithful service

Wanda Jallow 30 yearsEven with more than 30 years of state service, Wanda Jallow, who works in DBHDD’s Division of Performance Management and Quality Improvement, stills feels humble enough to know that there is always more to learn.

“My favorite aspect of my job is working with my co-workers,” Wanda said. “Most of them were little kids when I started my career with the state.  I enjoy sharing my knowledge with them and giving them encouragement to hang in there when things are rough.  I also know they have knowledge to share with me.  You can teach an old dogs new tricks!”

Wanda received her award and pin commemorating 30 years of faithful service in a ceremony earlier this month.  She started her career with the state in 1984 at Georgia Regional Hospital – Atlanta, and continued on to the DeKalb County Board of Health and the Department of Community Health before joining DBHDD last year.  She was working as an infectious disease nurse at the DeKalb County Board of Health following the 9/11 attacks.

“I began working with the Office of Emergency Preparedness where I was working directly with the CDC,” Wanda said.  “During this time, I assisted with the investigations of Anthrax threats.  I also had the privilege of being on the front line when several new diseases or reoccurring diseases were discovered such as West Nile virus, Avian Influenza, SARS, and so many more that were threats in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

Congratulations on 30 plus years of faithful service, Wanda!

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.

DBHDD’s bill passes through the Georgia General Assembly

The Georgia General Assembly concluded the legislative business on March 24. DBHDD’s bill (SB 271) passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor Deal’s review and signature.  This bill makes changes to specific administrative procedures in designated emergency receiving facilities and psychiatric hospitals.  Senator Dean Burke and Representative Buddy Harden were crucial in ensuring the bill’s passage through the General Assembly.

The General Assembly also passed the annual budget which included DBHDD’s recommendations.  Below are some of the highlights of the budget:

  • $8,895,654 for salary adjustments for direct care staff to reduce turnover and improve recruitment.
  • $11,900,000 to reflect a provider rate increase for the Comprehensive Supports Waiver Program (COMP) for individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • $1,223,897 for 100 additional slots for the New Options Waiver (NOW).
  • $5,700,000 for one Behavioral Health Crisis Center to address emergency crisis needs for individuals with mental illnesses.
  • $5,065,000 in bonds for a 40-bed forensic unit at Georgia Regional Hospital: Atlanta.

Two other bills of interest include HB 768, which would establish the ABLE Program Corporation and ABLE Trust Fund.  The bill would also authorize the ABLE board to establish a program for tax-exempt savings for people with disabilities. 

HB 900 would give pharmacists the ability to delegate the retrieval and review of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program information to technicians “for the purposes of determining misuse, abuse, or underutilization of prescribed medication.”

Faith community asked to help combat the stigma of addiction

12512449_1114324658610909_734155431369925453_nMore than 100 leaders in the faith community, social workers, government officials, and families of individuals with substance use disorders gathered in Gwinnett last week to discuss the rising heroin crisis. Navigate Recovery Gwinnett, a nonprofit organization connecting individuals to addiction treatment services, hosted the event at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth.

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances in the world. The rise in its use correlates with an increase of pain reliever prescriptions. In 2013, 681,000 Americans used heroin, more than double from the previous decade. In Georgia, 1,206 deaths in 2014 were caused by heroin overdoses, an increase of 10.2 percent from 2013.

“DBHDD is trying to avert the problem that’s increasing from heroin and opioid use with access to services, a smoother transition into the community with recovery support services, and growing partnerships with our stakeholders,” said Wrayanne Glaze Parker, women’s program Coordinator in DBHDD’s Office of Addictive Diseases.

At the event last week, many of those on the front lines, including Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader who oversees the local drug court, implored faith leaders to help combat the stigma of addiction.

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.

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.

Jennifer Briggs recognized for contributions to supported employment

(Above: Michael Callahan, President of Marc Gold & Associates, and Jennifer Briggs)

At the national TASH conference held last month, Jennifer Briggs, president and founder of Briggs & Associates, was recognized for her work helping people with behavioral health issues or developmental disabilities find gainful employment. The 2015 Marc Gold Award for Employment is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to increasing access to communities by integrating employment into the lives of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Briggs founded Briggs & Associates in 1989 in Roswell, Georgia, with the philosophy that everyone has the ability to succeed in the workplace. The company provides career development services, and consults and trains businesses on employing people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. They have served thousands, including adults with psychiatric disorders, adolescents moving into the workforce, and people desiring to get off welfare.

The award is named in honor of Marc Gold, whose research and advocacy showed that people with significant disabilities can learn complex tasks, and that supported employment benefits individuals, employers, and communities.

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.