The commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is resigning.
Dr. Frank Shelp has been the only commissioner of the agency since its creation by the General Assembly in 2009. He will leave the position in August, a press release said Friday. The governor’s office will conduct a search for his replacement.
Shelp, a psychiatrist, has presided over Georgia’s compliance on the 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to improve the state’s mental health and developmental disabilities system.
Under that settlement, many people with developmental disabilities have left state psychiatric hospitals to live in their communities, and Georgians with mental illness have received more community services.
Shelp has come under fire, though, for certain actions, such as paying bonuses to agency personnel and for accepting meals from lobbyists, despite a lobbyist gift ban for state employees.
Here is the text of Shelp’s message to agency employees:
“Over the past three years, we’ve changed the way Georgia serves people with mental illness and developmental disabilities and addictive diseases. We’ve changed it so fundamentally, in fact, that there’s no turning back. Now the people we serve will only become more independent, have greater support to reach and sustain recovery, and be more fully a part of their own communities.
“It’s because of the things we’ve accomplished together, and the fact that I know they will continue, that I feel only pride in announcing that I’ve decided to leave the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities as of August 10. I believe this is an ideal transition point. Although we have much left to accomplish, I’m now confident that, with our current momentum, we will.
“The people of Georgia asked a lot of us and you answered, accomplishing what others said was impossible. Over the next several weeks that work will continue apace and, with your dedication, into the future.
Georgia Health News will have more later on the Shelp resignation.