Peer-run Respites: Effective Alternatives to Hospitals

Georgia was one of 3 States featured in the SAMHSA sponsored webinar, “Peer-Run Respites: Effective Alternatives to Hospitals”. Jayme Lynch, CPS, Director of the first PSWRC (2008), and Roslind Hayes, CPS, Statewide Coordinator of the PSWRCs presented to over 700 webinar participants about Georgia’s five Peer Support Wellness and Respite Centers (PSWRCs), which are operated by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network through a contract with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities. Georgia’s PSWRCs offer 24/7 peer support over the phone; Wellness Activities 7 days a week; and up to 7 consecutive nights of respite, an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization, that uses a strengths-based approach to focus on realizing opportunities for recovery.

The PSWRCs are managed and staffed by Certified Peer Specialists who participate in on-going extensive training to insure that the center environments are welcoming, comfortable, trauma-informed, safe, inclusive, nurturing, respectful, and supportive of intentionally mutual relationships between staff and guests that allow individuals to learn new ways of seeing and relating to themselves, others and the world. Participation in center activities is free and strictly voluntary; no professional referrals are accepted. Proactive Conversation establishes peer relationships before a respite stay is needed.

To learn more about Georgia’s PSWRCs go to The archived webinar can be downloaded at

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.

Keeping history alive in Augusta

Brian-MulherinHave you ever wondered why the Central Kitchen/Dining Room building on the East Central Regional Hospital (ECRH) in Augusta is located at the end of the campus instead of in the center where it would be more convenient for individuals and staff?

Brian Mulherin knows. He’s a retired human services director at ECRH who is now a volunteer in the public relations office, and he shares this knowledge, along with other bits of trivia and history, in a bi-monthly newsletter published at ECRH.

“The original plans called for a 1,000-bed hospital, but a 350-bed hospital was all that was built,” Mulherin wrote in an early 2015 issue of the hospital publication for staff. “The same thing happened with the building of new regional hospitals in Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah.  If the hospitals were built for 1,000 beds, the Central Kitchen/Dining Room building would be in the center of the campus.

“The time period for construction of the hospitals was 1966-1971. At the same time, new drugs and therapies were making it possible to keep individuals out of the hospital while receiving outpatient care.”

Mulherin gathers his stories from personal experience, the experience of other long-serving staff, retirees, hospital annual reports, and searching through documents found in the Gracewood Archives Building.

His experience with state service began in 1968 as a personnel officer. He retired in 1999 as the Director of Human Resources. In between, he was a public information officer and wore many different hats for the various hospital activities.

Mulherin’s lifetime dedication to those who live with mental health illnesses was recognized earlier this year as a recipient, along with his wife Neita, of the Jimmie Dyess Symposium’s Distinguished American Award. The couple have spent much of their lives advocating for mental health and volunteering for various organizations around Augusta.

Historial tidbits shared by Brian Mulherin:

About 25 years ago, something wonderful happened on the Georgia Regional Hospital campus, John Feight, Director of the Foundation for Hospital Art, spent several days putting designs of flora and fauna on the walls of the Central Dining Room. Patients then completed the designs, painting them with bright and comfortable colors. Mr. Feight, his staff, and the hospital’s Activity staff guided the patients in the use of colors and artistic methods. The patients loved this project, feeling pride and a sense of ownership in the paintings. Paintings in other buildings followed. Mr. Feight brought with him two volunteer artists, all the paint and equipment needed to do the job, and the cost to the hospital was nothing! What a gift!

In the 1950s, mental health services were rendered by the Department of Welfare. In the 1960s, mental health services were rendered by the Department of Public Health. In the 1970s, and up to 2009, mental health services were rendered by the Department of Human Resources. Today, Commissioner Frank Berry heads the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Furniture to be upgraded at state hospitals

At the five DBHDD regional hospitals, most of the furniture is more than 20 years old and in various states. DBHDD’s Office of Facilities Management plans to refresh the furniture in all consumer living units, including bedrooms, day rooms, and reception lobbies.

The upgrade project began last month with a hospital furniture expo hosted by Office Interiors in downtown Atlanta. Nearly 50 DBHDD subject matter experts, including doctors, nurses, administrators, and maintenance workers, reviewed furniture from the leading four manufacturers in the health field. They spoke with potential vendors and provided feedback using a scorecard which will be used to begin the selection and specification of the new products.

“Our main goal is to assure that the new assets provide a quality level of functionality, comfort and safety for our consumers,” said Richard Aghajanian, DBHDD’s maintenance director.

The project timeline is currently in the build phase with a goal of completion by next summer.


GHRA offers community-like services within hospital

Bright white chairs and tables fill a café-like setting to the right of the large welcoming lobby and receptionist desk. Down the hall, classrooms are filled with people taking a variety of courses, from music therapy to computer basics to relaxation skills. A large art installation featuring the composer Ludwig van Beethoven and the mathematician John Forbes Nash greets everyone who enters the new treatment mall at Georgia Regional Hospital – Atlanta (GRHA).

“Patience, they say, is what I must now choose for my guide, and I have done so,” Beethoven wrote in a 1802 letter to his brothers as he suffered from bipolar disorder. This quote, along with many others, are displayed in the lobby and serve as inspiration for the adult mental health patients who participate in therapeutic programming.

Opened in February 2015, the modern facility “embraces recovery with dignity and empowers those we serve,” said Andy Nguyen, treatment mall director.

With a full schedule of classes, break times for socialization and snacks, and lunch at the campus cafeteria, patients learn necessary life skills for independent living when they transition back to their communities. There are nurses, psychologists, activity therapists, social workers and dieticians, among other professionals, on site to help with their recovery.

This new model of hospitalization, where community-like settings are highlighted and emphasized, stands in stark contrast to the old type of institutionalization and isolation of mental health hospitals in the past.

Dr. Charles Li, GRHA’s hospital administrator, said that the new treatment mall teaches people how to live independently, such as cooking and managing their money.  “You will see a lot of thought put into it – what it means to have active treatment and skilled training.  We have a computer lab … so they can get a GED education. When people go back into the community, they have some skills to live, to work, to support themselves,” Dr. Li added.

To aid in their recovery, the staff at the treatment mall use three different types of programming. Treatment through individual and group therapy and classes teaches people how to deal with their illness such as anger management and medication management. The educational classes provide life skills and also knowledge about their illnesses. The recreational classes, including art and music therapy, enrich their lives.

In addition to the new treatment mall, more improvements to the GRHA campus are underway. Renovations to an existing building will house DBHDD’s Region 3 office on the hospital campus. There will also be a new multimedia training facility and a recreation center.

See more photos of the GRHA Treatment Mall.

Nursing conference focuses on brain manipulation and stimulation

In celebration of National Nurses Week each year, West Central Georgia Regional Hospital hosts a nursing conference in Columbus. This year’s conference, “Manipulating the Brain: From Lobotomy to Deep Brain Stimulation,” enabled participants to apply knowledge of past and present interventions involving brain manipulation to identify patients who may benefit from these treatments.

The featured speaker was Dr. Nzinga Harrison, chief medical officer for Anka Behavioral Health Inc. and a member of the Clinical Adjunct Faculty in the nursing schools at Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Harrison spoke on several topics, including defining and describing brain manipulation techniques; describing the history and past uses of brain manipulation techniques; discussing alternative interventions and their safety with patients; and identifying alternative interventions for common neurological diseases.

Building at Central State Hospital gets a fresh coat of paint

One of the oldest buildings on Milledgeville’s Central State Hospital campus received a fresh upgrade with a large-scale art mural.

“I wanted something painted on the wall that would reflect what is happening today at Central State Hospital,” said Darrell Davis, director of STEMversity. “There are a lot of great opportunities happening there for a lot of people.”

Matt Jackson, a junior at Savannah School of Arts & Design, painted a phoenix rising from ashes last month on the exterior wall of the Wilkes building. “I couldn’t believe that he wanted me to actually paint a mural on the outside of the building,” said Jackson. “Mr. Davis said what better way to use my concept since Central State is trying to rise up again.”

Artwork by Matt Jackson, junior at the Savannah School of Arts & Design
Artwork by Matt Jackson, junior at the Savannah School of Arts & Design

Davis is the founder of Committee for Action Programs Services – Analytical Training Laboratory (CAPS-ATL), the non-profit organization which runs STEMversity. STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math”. STEMversity, which introduces middle and high school students from the Milledgeville area to the study of forensic science, will start its second Summer Science Training Academy this year on the CSH campus.

“It’s another way to bring art to STEM, too,” Jackson said. “Actually, I think they need to add the letter A to the word STEM to represent art.”

Watch a video of Matt Jackson painting the mural.


Nurses wanted


Do you know someone looking for a great place to work with flexible shifts and career advancement opportunities?

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) is hiring talented, compassionate and motivated nurses at each of our five state hospitals. Job descriptions and applications are available by location at Recruiters accept applications on an ongoing basis.

DBHDD nurses are among the best in the mental health field in Georgia and in the U.S. Our registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) work with professional colleagues who are committed to providing high-quality care to the individuals we serve. We encourage our nurses and provide them opportunities to practice to the full extent of their education and training.

Our nurses have a variety of career opportunities which may be clinical, programmatic or leadership-focused. An RN in our hospitals may advance to a charge nurse, nurse educator, nurse auditor, nurse manager or administrator, specialty or advanced practice nurse, nurse practitioner or nurse executive. Positions for RNs and LPNs are open in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Milledgeville and Savannah. Applicants are generally able to choose the shift they would like to work.

We offer competitive salaries, including shift differentials for nurses who work on second or third shift. Additionally, our full-time nurses are eligible for the state’s comprehensive benefits package—one of the best available in Georgia.

DBHDD nurses are at the forefront of health care delivery for people with behavioral health challenges and developmental disabilities. Interested parties are invited to apply for a position today, and see why there is no better place to help people in the state of Georgia than with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.


New leadership for developmental disabilities, hospital operations

DBHDD is committed to building and supporting a system of care for individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges in Georgia. To achieve this goal, the department is building capacity in local communities to provide easier access to high-quality care.

As the department transitions individuals from the hospital system to community-based care, collaboration between hospitals and community resources is critical. To ensure that each transition is facilitated safely and with focus on individual needs, Commissioner Berry has appointed Dr. Charles Li as director of hospital operations. Dr. Li currently serves as DBHDD’s assistant commissioner of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. He was asked to lead the department’s hospital system because of his significant background in hospital operations and community programs. Dr. Li will direct activities at all DBHDD hospitals and will also serve as regional hospital administrator for Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta, one of the department’s busiest hospitals.

Berry has named Dan Howell as interim assistant commissioner of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Most recently, Mr. Howell served as acting regional hospital administrator for Central State Hospital. Mr. Howell has extensive experience in program administration and has led similar transition initiatives across the country. DBHDD is conducting a national search to recruit and select both a new assistant commissioner for developmental disabilities and a regional hospital administrator for Central State Hospital.

These actions underscore the department’s confidence that Dr. Li and Mr. Howell will be invaluable assets during the transition to a community-based system of care. Under their leadership, DBHDD looks forward to strengthening bridges between hospital and community-based services and providing better access for all Georgians.