It is a historic white cottage sitting behind the Salvation Army First Stop Center, but to Charles Williamson it looks like the future.
“We are excited about that because it is right off the bus line,” the CEO of Serenity Behavioral Health Systems said as he looked at the house fronting Broad Street. “We’re glad it is right at the front of the street.”
The cottage is a future site for clinical and other services from Serenity. It still must be renovated and turned over to the health system, which recently began offering some programs through First Stop.
It is part of a broader strategy for Serenity to move access to its outpatient mental health services into downtown, closer to many of its patients, particularly the homeless, Williamson said.
Serenity is in talks with Christ Community Health Services about offering access through its clinics, Williamson said.
“We want to make sure we’re more accessible,” he said. Being closer to the downtown medical complex will also facilitate referrals from other providers, he said.
“We see great growth potential in the downtown area,” Williamson said.
It is particularly important for certain Serenity programs, such as the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, said Mandy Driggers, a team leader for PATH.
“A lot of the people we reach are down at the soup kitchen, under bridges; a lot of people are downtown in this area,” she said. With clinical services in south Augusta off Mike Padgett Highway, it can take a half hour to come from downtown, which makes it difficult to get patients to early morning appointments, Driggers said. Many Serenity patients don’t have transportation and are taking a bus or getting rides from friends and family, said Kellye Lewis, a behavioral health counselor in the intake program.
Just being inside the First Stop building and being able to offer access and some counseling is a good first step toward reaching more of those patients, Williamson said.
“It’s a great start in terms of reaching the downtown area,” he said.