The Northeast Georgia Center and Community Service Boards in Georgia
The predecessor to Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, called the Northeast Georgia Center, was established in 1972. Deinstitutionalization of individuals with mental illnesses occurred rapidly. By 1975 almost 75% of mental health care was being provided in community based clinics. A decade later, the population of patients in Georgia’s state mental health hospitals had dropped to fewer than 125,000.
In 1972 the Division of Mental Health became part of the Department of Human Resources. Locally, area mental health and developmental disability programs existed under the leadership of county boards of health. Each Center was fairly independent, even though the structure of a 10 county area was already established as Northeast Georgia Center. Clinics were typically tied more to their county board of health than to the larger entity of Northeast Georgia Center. The medical model predominated.
In 1994, House Bill 100 created a significant change for Mental Health, Addictive Disease and Developmental Disabilities Services. This bill created community service boards (CSBs), which were separate from the Boards of Health. CSBs were established under their own governing boards, with representation from each county served within its auspices, and representation by family members of or former consumers of services. Appointees to the Board were made by the County Commission. Local mental health centers were no longer a part of state government. Rather, the state contracted with CSBs to provide services.
The Past 10 Years
State Level: Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities
The legal status of CSBs was refined in 2002 by defining CSBs by statute as public corporations and instrumentalities of the state, through the Department of Human Resources (DHR), Division of Mental Health, Addictive Disease, and Developmental Disabilities.
On July 1st, 2009 the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities was created through HB228, taking the division out of DHR, and placing it directly under the Governor through an appointed Commissioner. This bill also created a council that included the commissioners of all entities that interface directly with individuals with behavioral health disorders and/or developmental disabilities. This was in recognition by the legislature that each department was operating in a silo fashion in regards to this population of citizens.
Local Level: Advantage Behavioral Health Systems
Advantage Behavioral Health Systems is in a mature level of development that allows for high performance within its financial means. This level has been secured through meeting significant challenges head on. Working through these challenges has taken our agency from independent clinic based operations, with little sense of ownership for the agency at large to a whole-agency identity, operating under a team leadership model. Our leadership has enabled Advantage to become a higher level professional agency, offering evidence-based practices to its clients; a business focused agency, focused on efficient practices, and fiscal stability; and a community partner operating 19 clinics within the 10-county region of Northeast Georgia.