After being vacant for almost 10 months, the job of state disability services ombudsman has been filled.
Corinna Magelund, who was an official in the administration of the previous governor, Sonny Perdue, has been appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to take over the ombudsman position.
Magelund most recently served at the Department of Community Affairs, where she worked closely with the Governor’s Office of Disability Services, according to a statement Friday from Deal’s office.
The disability services ombudsman fields complaints and promotes the rights of people with mental illness and those with developmental disabilities or addictions. The previous ombudsman, Jewel Norman, who left the position last August for health reasons, also supervised independent reviews of deaths of patients in state psychiatric hospitals.
Before Magelund’s appointment, consumer advocacy groups had been calling for months for the ombudsman job to be filled. They cited the major changes being implemented in the state’s mental health system.
Georgia has agreed to build community mental health services across the state, such as housing, crisis teams and stabilization units, as a result of a 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. full story
Georgia’s plan to help institutionalized people with disabilities receive services has been stalled, consumer advocates say.
The man in charge of that disabilities plan has left the position, and no replacement has yet been named.
William Janes won praise from advocacy groups while serving as Georgia’s “Olmstead Coordinator’’ for about 16 months, until his departure earlier this month.
The coordinator’s job is to develop a state plan to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead ruling of 1999. The ruling, which came in a Georgia case, said states must provide appropriate services for the disabled in the most integrated setting possible. Unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination, the ruling said.
Janes was appointed to the position by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2009. In an interview, Janes said Gov. Nathan Deal, who took office early this year, did not reappoint him. Janes said his departure was not a resignation, but that without a reappointment by the governor, he felt he could not fulfill his duties.
Because he was not reappointed, Janes said, his status was diminished. “I couldn’t do the job,’’ he said. But Janes did not criticize Deal or his staff.
“Georgia needs an Olmstead coordinator now more than ever,’’ Janes said this week. That’s because Georgia’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the mental health system pertains only to people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, he said. full story
Georgia is on track in delivering promised changes for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, a state official said Friday.
The state promised to revitalize community services as part of a landmark 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over problems in Georgia’s mental health system.
Pamela Schuble, the settlement coordinator with the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, said Georgia has met its first-year targets under the agreement. She spoke in Atlanta at the 16th annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum.
In the settlement, Georgia pledged to establish community services, including supported 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.
Georgia vowed to end all admissions of people with developmental disabilities to the state psychiatric hospitals by this July. It also promised that patients with developmental disabilities who are already in psychiatric hospitals would be moved out of them by July 2015.
Schuble said that at her agency, ‘’the clear and consistent message is: ‘Make it happen.’ ’’
The state has formed several assertive community treatment teams to help people with mental illness, and has established a crisis stabilization unit in Flowery Branch, with another set to open in Rome in June. More than 100 people with mental illness will receive supported housing by July 1, and 60 people are receiving job help, Schuble said. The state has also set up case management programs. full story
The job of state disability services ombudsman has been open for eight months now, and consumer advocates fear that the position will not be filled.
A Savannah leader of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, John Richards, recently wrote Gov. Nathan Deal a letter urging him to appoint an ombudsman soon.
Consumer advocacy groups, Richards wrote, “believe it is extremely important that you appoint a qualified professional [who] will provide honest and independent reports to your office, the legislature, and the citizens of Georgia.’’
Funding for the ombudsman was not included in the budget the General Assembly passed last week, an advocacy group said.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said that the governor will fill the vacancy. “The governor wants a strong advocate for Georgians in that job,’’ Robinson said. “The mental health community can rest assured that this is a priority for the governor and we will fill the position.’’
Robinson said Monday that federal money is available to pay for the ombudsman position, and that the state Insurance Commissioner’s office has applied for this funding.
The disability services ombudsman fields complaints and promotes the rights of people with mental illness and those with developmental disabilities or addictions. The previous ombudsman, Jewel Norman, who left the position in August 2010 for health reasons, also supervised independent reviews of deaths of patients in state psychiatric hospitals. full story
The health care budget news for many people in Georgia took a turn for the better Thursday.
State employees and teachers, however, face a 20 percent increase in their health care premiums under a fiscal 2012 budget passed by the House Appropriations Committee.
That hike in premiums will help fill a deficit in the State Health Benefit Plan that the Department of Community Health estimates at $250 million to $300 million. The plan covers more than 650,000 state employees, teachers, school personnel, dependents and retirees.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s original proposed increase for those workers was 10 percent, but that was before the recent news of the financial hole in the health benefit plan.
Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee budget – which goes to the House floor for a vote – gave some relief to doctors, dentists, nursing homes and other medical providers, who were facing a 1 percent cut in their payments for treating Medicaid and PeachCare patients.
The panel lowered their reimbursement cut to 0.5 percent.
In other changes, the committee restored dental, podiatry and vision benefits for adults on Medicaid, with $7 million in funding.
More money was put into a state program to identify and help young children with developmental disabilities, and for public health programs. full story