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.
Georgia, 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
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.
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
He was a solid student, loved sports, and was active in a youth group.
Jason Flatt with his father, Clark.
But Jason Flatt, who lived in suburban Nashville, used his father’s gun to commit suicide at age 16.
Since his 1997 death, his father, Clark Flatt, has helped raise awareness of youth suicide, including among educators.
He created the nonprofit Jason Foundation, which works to prevent teenage suicide. And 10 years after his death, the Jason Flatt Act was passed in Tennessee, requiring educators to complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training each year in order to be able to be licensed to teach in Tennessee.
The General Assembly recently passed a bill that would make Georgia the 14th state to pass the Jason Flatt Act.
Youth suicide “is a hugely growing problem and is heartbreaking,’’ says state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), the legislation’s lead sponsor. full story
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.
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
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.
The 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