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Gracewood closing sparks family fears

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 10:00 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:03 PM
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Kathy Robinson got choked up Wednesday talking about her brother, John, who has been at the Gracewood wing of East Central Georgia Hospital for years, along with other severely disabled people who are all now slated for community placement.

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Bob and Cathy Gilson listen during Wednesday's meeting at Gracewood. Cathy's sister, Pam McManious, has lived at the state hospital since 1959.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Bob and Cathy Gilson listen during Wednesday's meeting at Gracewood. Cathy's sister, Pam McManious, has lived at the state hospital since 1959.

“If they could be in a community home, do you not think these parents would have kept them in their home?” she said. “We didn’t do it by choice.”

By 2015, however, all 240 developmentally disabled patients at Gracewood, along with about 91 more at two other institutions, will be moved out, state officials said.

At a meeting of the East Central Georgia Family Council at Gracewood, officials sought to allay family fears by pledging that in the community placements “the care will be equal if not better than in a hospital,” said Commissioner Frank Berry, of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities. “We can’t sacrifice quality.”

Berry said he saw the same high-tech equipment in a new group home in the Thomasville area as in the state hospital.

“I’ve seen it work,” he said. “I’ve seen the homes.”

After meeting with the Gracewood families in February, Berry said, he put a 45-day freeze on new placements and will “double-check” on the 80 placed last year to ensure those were the right placements.

Where they will go will be the choice of the patient and family, Berry said.

“The goal is ultimately to offer options, to show people a variety of different kinds of homes,” he said.

In a 2010 settlement with the Department of Justice, the state pledged to move all patients out into a community setting in five years, Berry said.

“By 2015, if I fulfill my job, there will be nobody in our state hospitals with developmental disabilities,” he said. “And therefore this would be an empty campus.”

Many of the group homes have yet to be built and will have to meet strict standards, Berry said. All of the providers will have to be licensed by his department and the Georgia Department of Community Health, Berry said.

“These are licensed, certified homes with a significant amount of oversight,” he said.

Many of the staffers in the homes will be people who previously worked in the state hospitals.

“They don’t want to get out of serving the people they have been serving,” Berry said. “The hope is they will go work with the new providers that are building these (group) homes.”

But Gracewood parent Theresa Senior said a group home monitor she talked to said they could go into a home only if there was an incident.

“That’s like having nobody (watching),” she said.

“That’s unacceptable,” Berry said.

In fact, the state might make unannounced inspections in the homes, said Charles Li, the assistant commissioner for developmental disabilities.

Many families simply would not believe their loved one would be as safe and cared for as well.

“They don’t have 24-hour nursing care in group homes,” Senior said.

Berry said that he “miscommunicated” that earlier and meant that the staffers would be there around-the-clock.

Michael Quarterman, whose brother, Matthew, is legally blind, paralyzed from the waist down and nonverbal, said he doesn’t believe there is a safe move out of Gracewood.

“You can’t move somebody out who can’t fend for themselves,” he said. “This right here is unacceptable.”

Left unaddressed for many families is what happens to a campus and buildings recently renovated, and to patients who families fear will more than miss it.

As she looked around, Robinson questioned “why somebody in their right mind would close a facility like this.”

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SGT49
1945
Points
SGT49 05/30/13 - 05:19 am
10
0
These people will not get the

These people will not get the care they need. They will be shuffled off to little spread out enclaves where they will be babysat by high turnover low wage workers with few skills.

nocnoc
42661
Points
nocnoc 05/30/13 - 06:14 am
10
0
This is major loss for the

This is major loss for the area.
Surprised in some ways and not surprised in others.

A lot of family and in-laws have worked GSSH since the late 50's and many have long retired. This was when GSSH was strictly a location for the mentally retarded ,or whatever PC name they use now, and those with extreme birth defects.

As a teen I did volunteer work in 19-#'s and the Hospital during the summers of 1970-72, while Ms. Breedingbird (sp) was the volunteer director.

The original operational process had the place, at one time about 50% self-sufficient, growing a majority of its own food and teaching the patients to handle many basic jobs needed to run the place, under employee supervision. This cause problems with downtown merchants and was stopped by political means.

My hat is off to Mr. Trippe and Mr. Utley
2 of the best directors that GSSH ever had.
After them came the political and crusaders types that stepped in to "improve" the operation and drove it into the ground.

I say all this to support my next statement.
Having worked around many GSSH "patients", seen their lack of social adaptation and self control, open displays and fits, witnessed some extremely aggressive physically and sexually incidents of patients attacking staff and each other.

The idea of placing certain ambulatory patients in any community or Group house without 24/7 Security is NOT a well thought out idea.

Having seen the level of care GSSH delivers to the bedridden "patients" and seen nursing homes in GA. I do NOT see these exported patients getting the same level of care they are now receiving. The costs of that soon to be private / personal care to the taxpayers is going to sky rocket.

Speaking with various people while in the Gracewood Post office over the last 18 months. Many staff at various levels, have indicate this major change is a direct repercussion of the reg's, funding changes, staff size limits / costs and etc... all mandated by National Socialist Healthcare aka ObamaCare implementation.

Is history starting to repeat itself, as our government cleans out the care facilities for non-productive mouths?

“By 2015, if I fulfill my job, there will be nobody in our state hospitals with developmental disabilities,” he said. “And therefore this would be an empty campus.”

QUESTON:
What are they going to do with the Empty Campus or a mini-city as we consider it?

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/30/13 - 06:33 am
11
0
What a shame & the fears are legit!

What fancy thinking brought this nonesense to light...

My kin-cousins-aunts-uncles-parents & etc also worked at Gracewood...my father actually took a patient into his home to protect--love & help during the 70s-80s-etc....I have been acquainted with this institution since the 60s....some are helpless in every way....innocent victims in my eyes.......SHAME on all for DUMPING these patients ...

And we wonder why we have sooo much happening in our world---they can NOT cope with the real world....we will reap what we sow!!

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/30/13 - 06:38 am
9
0
With this statement

“By 2015, if I fulfill my job, there will be nobody in our state hospitals with developmental disabilities,” he said. “And therefore this would be an empty campus.”

YOU will create MORE problems than you can even imagine!!!

bubbasauce
20689
Points
bubbasauce 05/30/13 - 06:43 am
4
0
Americans are only beginning

Americans are only beginning to reap what they sew. Blame it on sequestration. Let's see what happens. Whatever it is, I'm sure it won't be good. I feel for these patients indeed.

wgcopeland
113
Points
wgcopeland 05/30/13 - 07:30 am
6
0
....unbelievable!!!!

Please,can someone with no political agenda and in short,explain why the facility is being closed?,...thanks

nocnoc
42661
Points
nocnoc 05/30/13 - 07:41 am
5
0
wgcopeland - The problem is

wgcopeland -

The problem is it is mainly political and political for more than just 1 reason.

btw: Are y'all any relation to my Aunt Mary Lou?

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 05/30/13 - 07:50 am
3
1
Let's take a look at nocnoc's

QUESTON:
What are they going to do with the Empty Campus or a mini-city as we consider it?

The campus is huge, with buildings, post office, steam boilers, water and sewage treatment plants, church, classrooms, hospital equipment, and much more I don't even know about. I think they even have their own cemetery.

I'll bet our next mayor will try to make it a satellite campus of Grooo. That way he/she can continue to keep the property off the tax rolls.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 05/30/13 - 08:26 am
3
2
Size and Scope

The spawling size of the Gracewood facility, its outdated infrastructure, and its bloated staff are driving this initiative. There are 240 "patients" there. They could be served by a single three-story building on a 10-15 acre plot. They could get 24-hour observation, and if they need medical care, drive them to MCG (oops, I mean Grooo).

Tens of millions of dollars a year could be saved, and the state could recoup more dollars by selling off the campus to private interests at auction.

itsanotherday1
43258
Points
itsanotherday1 05/30/13 - 09:22 am
2
0
LL

You hit on my question; why not build a smaller, self contained facility; and sell off Gracewood to help pay for it. At a populaion of 240, you don't need much more than an oversized nursing home.

wgcopeland
113
Points
wgcopeland 05/30/13 - 09:32 am
2
0
nocnoc

I'm not familiar,...you care to elaborate?!!!!

jwtgone
12
Points
jwtgone 05/30/13 - 10:00 am
3
1
Gracewood

I hate to hear this. Another victim of the Obama Care. My Dad worked there from 1970-1992 in the resident cottages as a worker & then a cottage supervisor. He loved his job & working with the patients.

Fiat_Lux
15429
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/30/13 - 11:13 am
2
1
Exactly the do-gooder stupidity that put the mentally ill out

of hospital care settings and shifted them out onto the streets and into the hands of the DOJ, specifically prisons. And what a great improvement that has proven to be for them--and for the rest of us!

I simply do not understand how people who claim so vociferously and piously to be ethical, progressive and deeply concerned about the welfare of the disadvantaged (at least those that currently enjoy political ascendency), ie, the pious political hacks that want to raise everyone's taxes to pay for their pet entitlement programs, are able to convince themselves and their fawning toadies that a perfectly able-bodied woman, whose sole contribution to the planet is to pop out babies every year or two, is more deserving of money from the government faucet than people who have no ability at all to care for themselves.

These Gracewood patients, like the mentally ill roaming around without the care they need, were specifically some of the people for whom the public collection of welfare funds originally were intended.

Privately run, for profit, sporadically or unsupervised group homes for people who can't communicate, protest or defend themselves. Right. That'll certainly work out well for the patients, since everyone who will work there will be a saint with no interests in the money to be made from the government.

Got it.

Tom Corwin
9548
Points
Tom Corwin 05/30/13 - 12:46 pm
2
0
Why Gracewood is closing

Perhaps this wasn't clear in the story but I thought I referred to it specifically. This is the result of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the conditions of Georgia's state hospitals that predates Obamacare by a few years. The result was a settlement between the state and Justice in 2010 that explicitly spells out how many patients will be moved per year each year over a five-year period. That is what Commissioner Berry was referring to when he said that if it is fulfilled, they will all be moved. Some of the Gracewood families read the agreement to mean that there is a chance for some patients to stay if it is inappropriate for them to go to a community setting. If anyone is interested, I can post a copy of the settlement agreement. It is 41 pages and it is not an easy read but if there is an interest I will do it.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/30/13 - 01:13 pm
2
0
Way to come correct Tom. The

Way to come correct Tom. The conditions there are what they are. It has been decades since I pulled a paycheck from GSSH. But unless the level of infliction on the residents has been trending to a healthier degree, I can't imagine some of them being unsupervised for any amount of time. They wear football helmets and protective equipment for real reasons. They are cared-for b/c they require it. No part of that should be unclear.

As Tom has stated, the premise wasn't Obama, but apparently someone found deplorable or unsatisfactory conditions on campus and thus it is being emptied rather than rehab'd. If some are deemed to unfit, then they stay. So what it really means is, it's too deplorable for alot of people but we'll look the other way or shine things up a little for a few people. Ultimately, it's just a bunch of jobs going to the wayside no?

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 05/30/13 - 01:42 pm
2
1
Bloat

Many of the clients require full-time monitoring; but there is no way one can justify the size of the campus, the waste caused by crumbling infrastructure (and certain unnecessary infrastructure), and the huge staff that has evolved to care for (and in many cases, to suck off of) the institution there.

The clients need care, but they need it in a smaller, more efficient facility.

Tom Corwin
9548
Points
Tom Corwin 05/30/13 - 01:46 pm
3
0
David Parker

I should have been more clear about the DOJ investigation. It was not the conditions at Gracewood that prompted it. It was actually the conditions in the Georgia Regional Hospitals in the Atlanta area, and some patient deaths there, that prompted that investigation and lead to the settlement. We have written about problems at Gracewood in the past but I do not believe it was part of this investigation. However, because of the systemic problems uncovered by DOJ, the settlement extended to all of the state hospitals in the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, which thus included Gracewood. As far as jobs, Commissioner Berry mentioned last night his hope would be the employees would end up caring for the same patients but now in the group homes and employed by those providers. Thanks for the comment, those are important questions that we will continue to pursue as this develops.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/30/13 - 02:49 pm
2
0
I see the glass from LL's

I see the glass from LL's view too. Smaller grouping allows for easier personalization. It could be argued that this is going to result into more quality of life for the individuals being moved into the homes.

WalterBradfordCannon
1451
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 05/30/13 - 03:07 pm
0
0
Also, btw, ECRH already falls

Also, btw, ECRH already falls under GROO jurisdiction as of a few years ago, so what will become of the campus will be under the discretion of GROO.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/30/13 - 03:46 pm
0
0
Not sure how it plays into

Not sure how it plays into things but Oelrich Memorial Park off Ridge road belongs to GSSH or at least it is allocated for their use exclusively. What happens to that? It boggles the mind to piecemeal it and sell the lots. Big money and not a whammie for miles, dig?

CricketSeranade
593
Points
CricketSeranade 05/30/13 - 05:00 pm
2
0
No Hope

I have been trying to find a facility to place my daughter in for almost a year. She is currently in a treatment facility but she needs to be in a residential facility where she has constant supervision. I've even begged DFACS for help and I was told that basically it was my problem, not theirs. There is no help out there us unless you can afford to pay over $100/day or unless your child ends up in the DJJ system. So messed up.

Tom Corwin
9548
Points
Tom Corwin 05/30/13 - 06:39 pm
1
0
WalterBradfordCannon

Thanks for the interesting article but the writer has it wrong about the Olmstead decision.

Here is the story I wrote when the decision came down in 1999:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1999/07/03/met_264901.shtml

When asked if a person with mental health issues in a state hospital had a right to community-based treatment, "the answer, we hold, is a qualified yes," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the court's majority opinion. The decision said the state's obligation to do so "is not boundless," and it should not be an "undue burden" on the state to provide community placement. So states are not compelled to move every patient out and close all hospitals under Olmstead but it is moving many, probably the majority, toward community placement. What sunk Georgia in this case was just the poor quality of treatment patients were being provided and the state opted to go with community placement and just close the facilities.

For those who were asking about Georgia Regents University's role at Gracewood, it is a partner with the state to administer services at East Central Regional Hospital, which includes Gracewood. This has happened at other places around the country. The university does not own the property. Again, one of the questions we are pursuing is what will happen to the campus if or when all of the patients are moved out.
Thanks for your interesting comments and questions. Feel free to contact me directly if there is more.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/30/13 - 07:37 pm
2
0
Lordy lordy

Have some of you ever been to this facility? I don't know how many they have now but I can tell you that in the past some patients were bed restricited 24/7.....infant like ....now tell me what a group home will do for them.....some wear helmets for protection from damaging blows to the head....this is not a one size fits all situation....many different levels of mental illness....top to bottom of the spectrum.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 05/30/13 - 07:55 pm
2
0
Fiat Lux says this & I 100% agree

These Gracewood patients, like the mentally ill roaming around without the care they need, were specifically some of the people for whom the public collection of welfare funds originally were intended.

Exactly..

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