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...

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.

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

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. 

In March, a report by an independent monitor criticized the state’s lack of progress in moving people with developmental disabilities out of hospitals.

Problems involving the care delivered in the community living situations led DBHDD last year to stop transferring these patients to community residences.

Media outlets reported last summer that almost 10 percent of the 480 Georgians with developmental disabilities who had moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 had died after being placed in community situations.

Georgia, under the settlement with the 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.

Georgia also agreed to establish community services for up to 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.

Talley Wells, director of the Disability Integration Project at Atlanta Legal Aid, told GHN that Georgia “has a long way to go” on the developmental disability patient transfers.

Wells also said while the state’s creation of housing for people with mental illness “has been a real triumph,’’ Georgia has not met its goal of providing housing for up to 9,000 people.


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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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