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

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Tony Sanchez’s RESPECT Institute Experience

In December, 2016, Tony Sanchez, Director of Recovery Transformation Services at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities participated in a RESPECT Institute of Georgia training that was hosted at the Sparrow’s Nest in Athens. Below, Tony shares his thoughts about his experience.

For several years, I have heard from many Peers that the RI training was a trans-formative experience. In December, 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in a RI and I can affirm that it is trans-formative – and healing.

I confess that I felt vulnerable when I started sharing my story with the other participants. I wasn’t planning on it, but I found myself sharing
experiences and feelings that I had never shared with anyone before. I actually think everyone felt vulnerable, but there was so much encouragement and compassion, that everyone took a chance. Everyone took a chance to be open and authentic and though it felt raw emotionally, it was also very liberating and healing.

Having been a veteran of the 12-step program, I assumed that the RI training would come easy to me. But I realized that the expectations of the RI require a different approach. For example, the exercise of having to write out my story and condense 40 years of my life into a 10-minute presentation demanded that I prioritize my lived experiences and at the same time deliver an educational and poignant message. This was not an easy task, but as I continued to edit my presentation, I realized how far I had come in my recovery. I realized that my resilience and recovery eclipse all of the pains and struggles of my life.

What I will treasure the most from my RI experience is the feedback sessions. After a participant shares their story, everyone is so encouraging and empathetic and compassionate that these sessions felt sacred. And when you consider that these stories have been held inside for so long due to shame and stigma, these sessions truly are sacred.

In my position at [DBHDD], I have had many opportunities to hear RI Graduates begin an important meeting by sharing their stories. Now that I have participated in a RI, I want to impress upon everyone that behind every 10-minute inspirational presentation, there is an enormous amount of effort. The RI is designed with great precision, but to get the optimal benefits, a participant goes through three days of intense, emotional and sometimes exhausting processes as they make peace with their past and learn to tell their story. And telling their stories is precisely what the RESPECT Institute Graduates do – every day. To date, RESPECT Institute Graduates have presented their recovery stories to over 100,000 Georgia stakeholders.

From The RESPECT Institute of Georgia Team
We encourage all Graduates to go into their community and tell their story!
Jen Banathy
RESPECT Institute of Georgia Organizational Development Coordinator
Denise Hardy
RESPECT Institute of Georgia Training Coordinator
Shelia Corn
RESPECT Institute of Georgia
Outreach Coordinator
Lindsey Sizemore
RESPECT Institute of Georgia
Outreach Coordinator

Tony Sanchez’s RESPECT Institute Experience

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.

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.

Representing DBHDD in the community

MLinkDBHDD’s Statewide Community Relations Office was established earlier this year to represent the department in the community. Director Michael Link travels across the state to inform organizations of department news and gather feedback on how DBHDD is fulfilling its vision of easy access to high-quality care for the people we serve.

We interviewed Mike to learn more about the Statewide Community Relations Office.

Why was there a need for this new office?
This is the first time we have had someone consistently in the community representing the department and all the disability groups. Commissioner Berry is the primary spokesperson, and he speaks on policy issues and has a relationship with stakeholders around the state to help formulate policy. Once that’s been developed, I go out and explain to people what that policy is and how it works.

So there’s an educational component to your role?
A lot what I’m doing is educational. I tell the story of the department, especially now with the reorganization. [In my presentations], I lead off with our vision and mission statements, how important that is, and how that sets the tone for the work that we do.

Can you describe your responsibilities?
I see my role as a vehicle to tell our story to the greater community and to raise the profile of the department, both as a storyteller and a brand manager. I promote the department as a key resource to community leaders, develop strong working relationship with community groups, and help coordinate communications with external groups.

What types of groups are you visiting?
I meet with community groups wherever they may be; often times to listen, and sometimes to present. I speak to all kinds of groups: community stakeholder groups that have been coordinated by NAMI, Kiwanis groups, community groups that have come together to deal with mobile crisis issues, provider meetings, local advisory council meetings, and other coalitions around the state. I attend standing meetings of the Georgia Behavioral Health Planning Advisory Council, Behavioral Health Services Coalition, and the Georgia Recovery Initiative. I also attend conferences.

How do you coordinate communications between providers and other stakeholders?
I want people to see me as a resource. Many providers are doing great, innovative work and we don’t often know about it. We want to highlight and showcase innovation. If other providers can see this work, we can connect with them and learn from them. I want providers to invite me out, to visit their programs, to see innovations that are producing good outcomes and to be able to share that with other folks.

Tell us about the community forums planned for next year.
The community education stakeholder forums will be held next year across the state. We will be educating the communities about the department and our services and programs. I think there’s a need to make sure we involve the communities in understanding and educating them about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and to gauge the issue of access and quality of services.

If you would like Mike to attend or present at your next community meeting, please email him at Michael.Link@dbhdd.ga.gov or call him at 404-353-6342.

Family-oriented home opens for women with substance use disorders

Photo courtesy of the Statesboro Herald

Pineland Behavioral Health, DBHDD’s community service board in southeastern Georgia, opened the Women’s Transition and Recovery Home in Statesboro last week for those in need of a safe, family-oriented home. This residential facility serves women who have substance use disorders who seek an alternative method of recovery and rehabilitation.

In-home services include group and individual counseling, parenting and job skills classes, and therapeutic sessions for children whose family members live with addiction.

“It is a real home, a refuge for women with children in need of help getting back to healthy lives,” said Pineland executive director June DiPolito.

DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry spoke at the July 29 ribbon cutting and open house, which was attended by several women and children who will be residents at the new home. Community donations from Bulloch County have helped refurbish and furnish the house. Volunteers have landscaped the yard and decorated the interior.

To volunteer or donate to the home, email jdipolito@pinelandcsb.org.

Assertive Community Treatment Improves Outcomes for Individuals with SPMI

A recent DBHDD study found that individuals who participate in assertive community treatment (ACT) experience a significant decrease in both hospital readmission and length of inpatient stay as a result of ACT participation. ACT is a community-based alternative to hospitalization for people who have a severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) which has interrupted their ability to live in the community successfully. It is often referred to as a “hospital without walls” because it provides a full range of treatment and supports that enable individuals with SPMI to live in the community.

Data collected by the department over a 6-month period showed a 56 percent decrease in the number of days of hospital admission and a 69 percent decrease in the number of individuals receiving inpatient services. The sample included 264 individuals enrolled in ACT services.

The study was conducted to determine the short-term effectiveness of the ACT teams in reducing psychiatric hospitalization. Researchers compared the frequency of hospitalizations prior to and during enrollment, and after discharge. Future research will investigate longer-term outcomes of ACT services, as well as other services in the DBHDD continuum of care.

The 22 ACT teams included in this study serve more than 1,400 people in Georgia by providing a full range of treatment and supports to enable individuals with SPMI to live in the community. Services include counseling, medication, case management and peer support. The goal of ACT is to reduce hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness, and to promote community integration. Georgia’s 22 state-funded ACT teams receive oversight, guidance, technical assistance and fidelity monitoring from DBHDD’s Office of Adult Mental Health.

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.