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Report criticizes state’s overdue patient transfers

Georgia continues to show a lack of progress in moving people with developmental disabilities out of state-run hospitals, an independent monitor says.

The report by independent reviewer Elizabeth Jones, filed in federal court, said just four individuals with developmental disabilities have moved to community settings in the past year. “This is especially troubling because 266 individuals are still confined to state hospitals,” Jones said in her report, dated Sept. 17.

iStock_000023217379LargeGeorgia, under a five-year settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, agreed to end all admissions of people with developmental disabilities to state psychiatric hospitals. It also promised in the 2010 pact that patients with developmental disabilities already in those hospitals would be moved to more appropriate settings by July of this year — the deadline for the agreement’s provisions to be met.

But problems in the care delivered in the community living situations led a state agency last year to stop transferring people with developmental disabilities from hospitals to community residences.

Media outlets reported that almost 10 percent of the Georgians with developmental disabilities who had moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 had died after being placed in community situations.

The settlement agreement with the Justice Department also sought to improve care for Georgians with mental illness. Georgia agreed to establish community services and housing for about 9,000 people with mental illness, and to create community support and crisis intervention teams to help people with developmental disabilities and mental illness avoid hospitalization. full story

What now? Pact with Justice Department to expire

The coming days will bring the scheduled end of Georgia’s five-year agreement with the feds to improve its care for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

A state official said Thursday that Georgia is “waiting to hear’’ from the U.S. Department of Justice about what the federal agency plans to do after the June 30 expiration of the settlement agreement.

Frank Berry, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, repeated a statement made earlier this year that Georgia would not meet a deadline for moving people with developmental disabilities out of state-run hospitals.

There are currently 268 people with developmental disabilities in state hospitals in Atlanta and Augusta. Just eight have been moved into community placements since December, but Berry told GHN that “the pace is picking up.”

Both federal and state officials are believed to be working on proposals for an extension of the pact.  full story

A program that helps parents help children

The boy, nearly 1 year old, has started walking around his family’s apartment.

These early wanderings by a child are a challenge for any parent, but in this case, they can be especially dangerous.

chlogoThe boy has hemophilia A, a disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Any bumps, scrapes or bruises that he gets can create a serious medical problem. That’s why he wears knee pads and a soft helmet for safety.

Once a week, the two-member team of social worker Andrea Parker and nurse Sharon Greer visit the apartment in Duluth, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta. They help the mother with advice, information and a medical check for her child.

The visits “have given me more resources,’’ says the mother, 34, who requested anonymity. “They have been helpful.”

The team comes from Childkind, an Atlanta nonprofit that delivers services for children who are disabled or have medically complex conditions.   full story

Medicaid care coordination put back on hold

The state has shelved its attempt to coordinate care of Medicaid beneficiaries who are elderly or disabled.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingThe Georgia Department of Community Health said Tuesday that it was not proceeding “at this time’’ with soliciting bids from potential vendors to operate the program.

The agency’s statement, made in an email to GHN, follows the General Assembly’s removal of $12 million in state funds, intended for the startup of the program, from the fiscal 2016 budget proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Community Health, though, denied that the removal of startup funds drove its decision to halt the contracting process. full story

Commentary: Don’t let good workers go to waste

“Supported employment” is a key term in the developmental disabilities and mental health field.

Kathy Keeley

Kathy Keeley

It helps match individuals to job opportunities in typical workplaces, letting them work alongside people without disabilities.

In an new GHN Commentary, Kathy Keeley, executive director of All About Developmental Disabilities, urges state lawmakers to include more money for supported employment.

“There are thousands of Georgians with developmental disabilities, and the unemployment rate for this group is more than 85 percent,’’ Keeley writes. This job help, she adds, “means the difference between a life of isolation at home and full participation in the world of work and the community.”

Here’s a link to her Commentary.



Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at


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