Again, AGAIN, Georgia is found to be failing to meet its commitments to Georgians dealing with developmental disabilities or serious mental illness. In particular, Georgia has been called to task for failing to provide adequate community housing, and failing to ensure proper transitions for individuals leaving hospitals and other institutionalized settings.
Consider what this means. Some of Georgia’s most vulnerable residents — our loved ones who deal with chronic and severe mania, autism or schizophrenia — find themselves cycling through jails, homeless shelters, hospitals and even our homes.
Six years ago, now, Georgia agreed to improve how it monitors, treats and cares for these neighbors and loved ones of ours.
However, earlier this year, the Department of Justice and the state of Georgia had to extend that agreement, because Georgia was failing to meet its commitments.
Per the agreement between DOJ and Georgia, there is an annual, independent review. And this one was not pretty.
The report details folks being discharged from state hospitals directly to homeless shelters, rather than some kind of supported housing.
Some of the individuals had been in psychiatric hospitals ten or more times, and yet were still being sent to a homeless shelter rather than to places that could continue to provide ongoing care, monitoring and support.
“An additional concern is the unfortunate pattern of hospitals, both state and private, discharging individuals to shelters for homeless people,” the report, authored by independent reviewer Elizabeth Jones, states. Adding, “[T]hese individuals, many at high risk and with ‘revolving door’ histories of psychiatric hospitalization, are not being referred for supported housing.”
Georgia Health News reached out to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities for comment, and got this anemic response:
A spokeswoman for DBHDD, Angelyn Dionysatos, said in an email statement to GHN last week that “we highly value the reflections and recommendations offered by the independent reviewer and her experts. Their thoughtful work will continue to inform our planning as we embark on the next phase of our strategic transformation, which will position us to fulfill the obligations expressed in the extension agreement that was signed in May.”
The report also mentions “troubling” staff shortages, that “make it very difficult for current staff to do high quality Transition Planning,” that is, the process of figuring out what will happen when someone is discharged.
This means more folks not being connected with the housing solutions and experienced, dedicated staff they need to thrive. Receiving improper care and poor or no follow-up will only continue to have dangerous consequences for our loved ones dealing with developmental disabilities and other mental health issues.
Not only do Georgia leaders need to take the concerns this report unearthed seriously, but state resources need to be allocated to ensure that the public institutions tasked with caring for our loved ones are able to succeed.