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Mental Health

Transfers of disabled patients still a problem

Almost 10 percent of the 480 people with developmental disabilities who have moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 have died after their placement in community residences.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, when asked about deaths after hospital transfers, told GHN that 44 occurred from mid-2010 to early May of this year.

dbhdd-logo-blueOn Sunday, Alan Judd, in an AJC article, described horrific incidents of abuse or neglect following the transfer of these patients into group homes. Forty patients placed in group homes have died, Judd reported, with 30 of those deaths classified as unexpected.

Many of the deaths appeared to be from natural causes, Judd reported.

The article also said that officials documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse; 48 of neglect; and 60 accidental injuries.

In March, an independent reviewer reported that Georgia was failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who had been moved from state hospitals to community group homes. full story

Report: Developmentally disabled need better care

An independent reviewer reports that Georgia is failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who are moved from state hospitals to community group homes.

The reviewer, in a report dated March 23, says there is an “urgent need to ensure competent and sufficient health practitioner oversight of individuals who are medically fragile and require assistance with most aspects of their daily lives.”

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

The reviewer, Elizabeth Jones, notes in the report that two individuals with developmental disabilities died shortly after being moved from Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, which recently closed, to community settings.

The report also points out that state officials terminated three providers of services for poor quality of care.

Frank Berry, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, said Thursday in an interview with GHN that the agency has halted hospital discharges of people with developmental disabilities into community settings until improvements are made. full story

Busy day for health bills at Capitol

The sponsor of a medical marijuana bill said Monday after a three-hour legislative hearing that the proposal must get significant revisions before it can move forward in the Georgia General Assembly.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was unsure of the specific changes needed to House Bill 885 that would give Georgia children, who have no other treatment options, the opportunity to receive therapeutic cannabidiol to treat their seizures.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingPeake’s efforts, though, drew support from the vast majority of people who packed the hearing room, including parents who tearfully testified their children suffer multiple seizures a day.

Physicians who testified at the House Health and Human Services Committee hearing agreed that the therapeutic oil, which does not have the psychoactive qualities of typical marijuana, has proved effective in providing relief from seizures, but needs more thorough study.

The legislation is scheduled for another hearing Thursday.

The medical marijuana testimony was part of a busy health care day at the Capitol, as lawmakers continued to work hard to move key legislation in a compressed time period. This year’s legislative session is a short one because party primaries will be held unusually early.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday approved a revamp of the state’s child welfare services; a bill to increase monitoring of the state’s community service boards; and a proposal that would allow public health officials to inform medical providers of a patient’s HIV status if the patient is not in treatment. full story

Community service boards may get new oversight

The 26 community boards that offer services to Georgians with behavioral health problems and developmental disabilities would face new oversight under a state Senate bill introduced this week.

The legislation follows recent trouble connected with one such community service board in Coastal Georgia. A September state report on Gateway Behavioral Health Services last year said its operation was riddled with financial irregularities and management problems.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingThe Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) took control of Gateway last year, firing its CEO and asking its chairman to resign.


The department indicated to Georgia Health News on Wednesday that the bill is not so much about Gateway as about trying to strengthen the statewide public safety-net system and bring consistency, accountability and transparency to it.

“The bulk of these ideas preceded Gateway,’’ said Andrew Johnson, legislative director for DBHDD.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Wednesday on Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), a floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal in the Senate. No vote was taken. full story

Managed care for foster kids delayed 2 months

The state is delaying its move to put 27,000 kids in child welfare programs into a managed care plan.

The Georgia Department of Community Health told GHN on Friday that the managed care program requires more time to launch. It will begin March 3, instead of the originally planned Jan. 1, an agency spokeswoman said in an email.

The move of foster care children and those in adoption assistance and in the juvenile justice system will result in improved coordination of care, state officials say. The new program is also expected to save Medicaid millions of dollars by emphasizing prevention and keeping the children healthier.

The Community Health spokeswoman, Lisa Marie Shekell, said in an email that the agency “remains committed to this transition because of the improvements in care and health outcomes that the children and youth impacted by transitioning into a managed care environment will experience.” full story

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