New substance abuse treatment facility announced

Attending the announcement of the state's new substance abuse treatment facility Monday, May 5, 2014, were Highland Rivers Health CEO Jason Bearden (from left), Georgia DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper. (Jeremy Stewart/RN-T.com)

The announcement of a new state substance abuse treatment facility was made Monday in Rome, but the center will not be in Rome.

Instead, Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry said in a press conference at Oak Ridge Apartments that the facility will open Aug. 1 in Jasper, an hour east.

Highland Rivers Health, which provides services for the mentally ill and those with substance addictions, will operate the new facility. It is the state’s provider for Floyd and 11 other Northwest Georgia counties.

“If you look across the state, facilities like these have become non-existent north of I-20,” said Jason Bearden, CEO of Highland Rivers Health. “Definitely in the last 30 to 40 years … there has been a large distribution in the southern part of the state, and nothing in the north.”

The Rome community lost Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital when it was shut down in 2011 as part of a plan to move developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients to private settings and community-based services.

Berry said that has worked out with Highland Rivers providing in-home care for patients while also providing crisis stabilization teams to handle individuals with acute problems 24 hours a day.

“We are delivering treatment to where people live,” Berry said. “We believe very strongly that in order to live life, a person should recover independently in their community and have better access to loved ones.”

Berry said the problem of people going far from home to receive treatment has been addressed with providers like Highland Rivers.

“We want to be able to provide easy access to high-quality services as quick as possible,” Berry said.

According to the DBHDD, $5.7 million in new funding has been invested in Floyd County for behavioral health services since 2010, a number that represents both state and federal funds.

Joined by state Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, Berry said that while the decision to close NWGRH was made before he was appointed commissioner in 2012, his department has tried to find ways to assist those who need help in North Georgia.

Dempsey said Jasper was selected for the facility because it’s a centralized location in the 31-county North Georgia region — and that fits the goal of having people stay closer to where their families live.

“We must ensure that people in our communities have access to the mental health and substance abuse services that can help them live healthy and productive lives,” Dempsey said.

An increase in funding from the state is allowing renovations to Highland Rivers’ Pickens County outpatient clinic, which will become the Highland Recovery Center.

The center will offer the first publicly funded substance abuse treatment facility for men in the region. Highland Rivers already operates a similar women’s outreach program in Rome.

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