Recovery symposium highlights area resources in southwest Georgia

DBHDD, along with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, and the Albany and Moultrie chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, co-sponsored Transforming 2 Wellness, a regional symposium held in Norman Park on April 29. The program highlighted area resources that help people achieve and sustain long-term recovery from mental health challenges and substance use disorders.

Speakers included individuals from Lee and Terrell counties, as well as other surrounding communities. Materials from exhibitors demonstrated the range of resources for mental health and addiction in southwest Georgia.

“We need to be very aware of what the local efforts are, what the local needs are, what the local gifts and the local talents are and that’s what we really trying to do here,” said Mark Baker, director of DBHDD’s Office of Recovery Transformation, which funds effort to raise recovery projects around the state.

See more photos from the symposium on the DBHDD Fackbook page.

Senate health and human services chair tours South Georgia behavioral health providers

On August 11, State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) visited four of DBHDD’s community service boards, including Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia (Valdosta), Unison Behavioral Health (Waycross), Gateway Behavioral Health Services (Brunswick) and the Community Service Board of Middle Georgia (Dublin).

Unterman, who chairs the Senate’s health and human services committee, says visiting these sites plays an important role in better understanding the challenges that Georgia’s behavioral health system faces. “I am grateful for the opportunity to visit several of DBHDD’s facilities in South Georgia,” said Unterman. “It’s important to compare behavioral health care across all parts of the state. Access issues are very different in rural and urbanized areas. This visit underscores the need to ensure a qualified behavioral health care workforce across Georgia.”

Representative Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) and State Senator-elect Greg Kirk (R-Americus) also joined Unterman at Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia (BHSGA).

David Sofferin, CEO of BHSGA, was proud to show off the Valdosta crisis center. “Since opening our new behavioral health crisis center earlier this year, our team members have been providing a valuable service to individuals with substance abuse disorders and/or a mental illness,” Sofferin said. “Our 10-county service area has never had a crisis stabilization unit located in one of the 10 counties. The response has been phenomenal.”

BHSGA 8.20.14Pictured left to right: Mary Girsch, RN, director of  BHSGA’s behavioral health crisis center; Representative Ellis Black; State Senator Renee Unterman; State Senator-elect Greg Kirk; David Sofferin. 


Engaging with leaders in municipal government

DBHDD attended the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual conference in Savannah. Commissioner Berry spoke on a panel at the meeting of the association’s Community Development Policy Committee. Berry discussed new community-based services and shared success stories with members of the committee chaired by Councilmember Ruth Bruner of Gainesville. Other panelists included Representative Patty Bentley (D-Reynolds), Department of Community Affairs Deputy Commissioner Brain Wilson and Rome Assistant City Manager Sammy Rich.

Department staff and partners also participated in the convention’s expo, where they had the opportunity to speak with mayors and city council members about community-based services, including our new behavioral health crisis centers in region 4. We were proud to showcase our broad network of community partners that provide easy access to high-quality care across Georgia. Many thanks to our CSBs which provided us with handouts for their regions, and especially to Jeannette Bacon and Melody Wente in our region 5 office and David Crews and Amanda Tillman of Gateway Behavioral Health Services for taking time to help at our booth.

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(L-R) Amanda Tillman, Commissioner Frank Berry, Melody Wente and Angelyn Dionysatos (Photo credit: Chris Bailey)

View more photos from the convention.

Albany Area Community Service Board changes name to Aspire


The Albany Area Community Service Board is now operating as Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services. “The new name provides a clearer understanding of the services that our agency provides. ‘Aspire’ reflects our commitment to providing BH and DD services to individuals and families as close to their homes as possible as well as providing on-going supportive community services to individuals on their journeys to recovery and independence,” said Executive Director Kay Brooks.

Aspire functions within DBHDD’s community service board system and serves clients in Baker, Calhoun, Dougherty, Early, Lee, Miller, Terrell and Worth Counties. The agency operates a behavioral health crisis center at 601 W. 11th Avenue in Albany. The crisis center is a new service that acts as an enhanced crisis stabilization unit. The center accepts walk-ins 24/7 and combines short-term crisis intervention, counseling services and emergency receiving capabilities.

Aspire opened the crisis center in December, adding to an existing crisis stabilization unit, to provide better and more local access to services for Albany-area residents. The new facility is equipped with 30 crisis beds and 6 temporary observation beds. Brooks says that Aspire continues to be proactive in the community. “We educate clients, family members and stakeholders about crisis services and supportive community services, and we also make sure they know how to access them,” she said.

Aspire’s mission is to offer affordable, accessible, and quality mental health, addictive disease and developmental disability services. These services are provided by skilled professionals who are sensitive to the needs of individuals and families served.

Read more about Aspire in the Albany Herald.