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Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville to Close Doors

By: Georgia DHR Email
By: Georgia DHR Email

By: Kara Duffy
June 12, 2013

Thomas County, GA- The Commissioner of Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Frank Berry, was back in Thomasville Wednesday, just weeks after news broke that Southwestern State Hospital would soon close for good.

This time, it was to announce construction of a 5.2 million dollar Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Thomas County.

Berry says the center is part of the state's mission to provide service to patients in a less restricted setting, in hopes of transitioning them back into society.

"One of the major components of that, was building communities so that people can receive services closer to home and then have continuity of care," Berry said.

The question however still on the minds of the some 600 hospital employees set to be out of work at the end of the year is what does this mean for them, as well as the patients?

"If you check some of the reports, you'll find out that a huge number of these patients are dangerous patients," said Barbara Collins, a former employee of the hospital. "There, we had facilities for that; how are we going to have facilities in the community?"

Berry added, "A center like this employs almost 60 people. The hope is that many of our high quality State Hospital staff will transition over to these new community services that will be developed."

State officials say they plan to have behavioral centers in Valdosta and Albany.

All facilities are scheduled to be operating by October or November of this year.

Southwestern State Hospital will close on December 31st.

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By: Kara Duffy
May 22, 2013

Thomasville, GA- Shocking, devastated, hopeful; those are just a few of the feelings that passed through employees at Southwestern State Hospital after news broke that the hospital would be shutting down for good.

"A lot of the employees are really emotional right now, trying to figure out which way to go now and what their plans will be," said Deborah Asbey, an employee at the hospital.

Frank Berry, the commissioner of Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said the decision was consistent with their mission to provide service to patients in a less restricted setting.

"We're trying to build up community so that people can be closer to home and then get their follow-up care closer to the communities that their living in," Berry said.

Under the new community-based system, Berry says patients will receive care at Behavioral Health Crisis Centers and "Crisis Stabilization Units" established across the state.

As for the some 600 employees who currently work at the hospital, many of them want to know what does this mean for them.

"I have asked all of our new providers and existing providers who will be helping us to give our employees the preference for interviews and they have all agreed to do that," Berry said.

Calvin Fisher, has worked at Southwestern State Hospital for eighteen years. He said over the years his coworkers have become like family.

"You learn to see people on the catwalks, speaking, smiling; we laugh together; we have cried together, but we know tomorrow will be a better day for each any everyone of us, but today, is a sad day.

The hospital will close December 31, 2013.

Press Release: Georgia Department of Human Resources

Thomasville – Consistent with the mission and goals of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) to serve individuals as close to home as possible in the least restrictive setting, the department will no longer provide services at Southwestern State Hospital (SWSH). Thus, Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia will close on December 31, 2013.

DBHDD is currently working with developmental disabilities clients at SWSH and their families or legal guardians to establish an Individualized Service Plan (ISP). The ISP provides clients the most customized care available and the opportunity to live the life of independence they deserve. Mental health clients currently served by SWSH will be served in various facilities located across the region, and those with a higher need will be served in an alternate psychiatric hospital. Clients in the forensic population will be transferred to other state forensic facilities.

In addition, DBHDD will increase the amount and type of mental health services it currently provides the citizens of southwest Georgia. New or expanded services will include Behavioral Health Crisis Centers, Crisis Stabilization Units and Intensive Case Management Teams. For more information regarding mental health and developmental disability services please visit www.dbhdd.ga.gov.

As DBHDD works to increase the number of developmental disability residential group homes and mental health services, we also recognize that our employees are our state’s most valuable resource. The department will work with contract providers to give the approximately 600 SWSH employees associated with the developmental disabilities unit and support services priority when selecting an applicant for employment. The benefits of hiring a SWSH employee for a residential group home position include continuity of care for clients; peace of mind for families and guardians; knowledge of the clients’ individual needs and knowledge of the community and region. DBHDD will also reinvest in the community by working closely with numerous local, regional and state-based agencies and private agencies to provide services to SWSH employees, including GED preparation and testing, workforce training, employment assistance and more.

Background

In 2010, the United States Department of Justice, DBHDD and the Georgia Department of Community Health entered into a settlement agreement (the “Agreement”) regarding the administration of services to individuals with developmental disabilities who live in state hospitals, including SWSH. Specifically, the Agreement requires the state to transition these individuals from state hospitals into community-based settings of their choice. In 2011, Georgia passed legislation to end admissions to state hospitals for anyone whose primary diagnosis is a developmental disability.

Frank Berry has served as commissioner of DBHDD since August, 2012. The DBHDD is the state agency that focuses solely on policies, programs, and services for people with mental illness, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities. The department’s mission is to help the people it serves live a life of recovery and independence.

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