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Mental Health

State: Won’t meet Justice Department deadline

Georgia health officials acknowledge that they won’t meet a June 30 deadline — agreed to with the federal government — for moving people with developmental disabilities out of state-run hospitals.

Frank Berry, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, said at an agency board meeting Thursday that the state will move people from hospitals as soon as community services of sufficient quality are available.

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

For now, he said, 260 Georgians with disabilities remain in state hospitals.

Georgia, under its 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 disabilities already in those hospitals would be moved to more appropriate settings by July 2015.

“We will not meet the deadline,’’ Berry said Thursday. full story

Innovative mental health program short on funds

Mental health experts in Georgia say federal spending cuts will weaken a program that trains ordinary citizens to provide “first aid” for a person experiencing a mental health crisis.

logo-drop-shadow-2xThe December 2012 Connecticut school massacre moved mental health issues up the agenda for the Obama administration and Congress. (Despite this Connecticut case, people with mental illness are generally not violent, experts say.)

After the Sandy Hook shootings, Congress increased the budget of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal agency whose job is to reduce the community impact of substance abuse and mental illness.

In 2014’s omnibus budget, Congress also set aside $15 million for a community based awareness program called Mental Health First Aid.

But SAMHSA’s total budget in 2015 will be cut by about $40 million, and Georgia will feel it.

“Any time there’s a cut for mental health funding, it hurts everyone,” said Ellyn Jeager, director of public policy and advocacy at Mental Health America of Georgia. full story

Feds clear Augusta facility after safety problems

An Augusta facility for the developmentally disabled has been certified by the feds after the state corrected significant problems with patient safety there.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, has notified the state that the Gracewood Developmental Center is now in “substantial compliance’’ with U.S. regulations.

dbhdd-logo-blueThe Georgia Department of  Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) had been warned in August that CMS would end Medicaid payments for Gracewood care unless the state improved conditions there.

A CMS inspection report had said the facility repeatedly failed to ensure the safety of patients, who were subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman for DBHDD, said Thursday that the agency’s team at Gracewood had made “dramatic improvements’’ there. “The letter from CMS is important evidence of our ability to lead effective change and deliver on our commitment to high-quality care.” full story

Health data thefts a continuing problem

A state agency says Georgia consumers’ personal data has not been compromised so far in the wake of a theft of a laptop computer that contained some people’s health information.

The computer was stolen from the vehicle of an employee of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities who was attending a Clayton County conference in August. The laptop contained health information on 3,397 individuals who receive services from the agency.

Stethoscope on a computer keyboardA majority of these patients get services in the Columbus region, DBHDD said.

The health information included people’s names, addresses and phone numbers, dates of birth, names of guardians, marital status, Social Security numbers and Medicaid numbers, as well as diagnostic and behavioral data.

The agency said Thursday that there are no signs that anyone’s data has been used or accessed.

Data breaches in health care are not uncommon in the United States. full story

Report: Disabilities system reform needs more work

State health officials have major work ahead to meet a July 2015 deadline with the federal government on improving care for Georgians with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

dbhdd-logo-blueThat’s a key message of a report this month from an independent reviewer regarding the state’s five-year settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, reached in 2010.

The state has improved the mental health system significantly, with “increased access to affordable housing, competitive employment, clinical and peer supports and crisis services,” said the Sept. 15 report by the reviewer, Elizabeth Jones.

And overall, the report continued, Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) has shown “a good faith effort” to ensure the terms of the settlement agreement have been met.

But the state “remains out of compliance” with services for the developmentally disabled, Jones said. full story

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