We’ve gone from crisis — foster care children from Floyd County sent all over the state and a loss of a mental health support system — to possibly the best news we could have for the former hospital property.
The announcement this week that the 132-acre former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property would be purchased and converted into a partnership of public, private and faith-based organizations to provide services for people in need of assistance is a godsend.
Jeff Mauer, Global Impact International president and CEO, likened the Hope Village project to a “recovery ecosystem” for those suffering from substance abuse issues, mental health issues and poverty.
The Hope Village will concentrate on residential treatment, transitional recovery housing and out-patient services delivered within a “safe city within a city” on the property. Some of the services will be physical health support, spiritual counseling, vocational and on-the-job training along with vital life skills instruction.
It’s similar to the Restoration Rome Comprehensive Care Unit in that they’re looking to create a functioning system that partners with all of the entities who already provide services.
As of 2017 there were approximately 499 Floyd County children in foster homes. At one point only 25 percent of those children were placed in foster homes in Floyd County.
The other 75 percent were spread across the state, many miles from any family or even their caseworkers. Just focusing on those numbers, that would have been over 300 children. Just take a moment to think about that. The fear, the uncertainty, the sadness, the loneliness. Even the best of us can’t strive alone and without support — how could we expect them to?
Luckily for us there are people like Jeff and Mary Margaret Mauer — and so many others — who have stepped up and began working on what hopefully becomes a solution to that problem.
It’s not like Floyd County exists in a vacuum and it’s not like other parts of the state weren’t equally plagued with similar issues.
But from one crisis to the next, mental health issues have plagued our area since federal and state funding for treatment were repeatedly cut and the hospital — once a hub for treatment in North Georgia — was a pretty large victim of those cuts.
Anecdotally, there’s an old rumor we’ve never been able to prove. It’s been said that agencies would drop off people suffering from mental health issues in Floyd County because they knew they’d eventually find their way over to Northwest Georgia Regional and be able to get help. Those other counties, the rumor goes, didn’t have the facilities or abilities to give them help or deal with their problems.
Did that happen? Great question.
Regardless, the closure of NWGA Regional put essentially much of the burden on police and Floyd County Jail. There wasn’t anywhere else to put someone having an episode and the jail and the sheriff has been in the process of dealing with that issue. One of the 2017 SPLOST items was $5,200,000 to turn a section of the jail into a medical and mental health wing.
As the mental health programs were cut from larger budgets the onus of paying still fell to taxpayers — this time locally through SPLOST projects — thank goodness voters passed it.
It’ll take some time as the development plan works itself out and this announcement, and the willingness of groups to participate, to bring the plan to fruition. We’re hoping the service providers, non-profits, as well as state and federal government get on board to make this idea a reality.