Gracewood tries to ease fears

Integration worries families

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A meeting Tuesday night between state officials and patients’ families and employees of the Gracewood campus of East Central Regional Hospital could be summed up like this: “Gracewood will still be here,” said Beverly Rollins, the executive director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

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Beverly Rollins, the executive director of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, fields questions from community members concerning the move of patients from Gracewood mental health institution into the community.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Beverly Rollins, the executive director of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, fields questions from community members concerning the move of patients from Gracewood mental health institution into the community.

“That’s not what we’re hearing,” muttered Dale Beasley, whose daughter has been at Gracewood for 40 years.

The meeting, called by state Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, and the Augusta delegation, was to explain plans to move more Gracewood patients into the community.

The department reached a settlement in October with the U.S. Department of Justice over conditions in the state’s mental hospital system, which includes Gracewood. It calls for the state to move 150 patients a year out of Gracewood and into the community, “provided such placement is consistent with the individual’s informed choice,” according to the settlement agreement.

That could prove difficult to comply with in the case of Gracewood patients such as Erica Knighton, who doesn’t speak, suffers from seizures and has the functional capacity of “an infant,” said her mother, Ann, the president of the East Central Georgia Family Council.

Yet the family has been told that Erica pointed to a picture of a house and said she wanted to there, a story her mother finds ridiculous, and a staff member put a pen in Erica’s hand and helped her sign some papers.

“They’re (trying) to railroad people out,” Knighton said.

Rollins repeatedly stressed that it will be the family’s choice.

“We won’t violate their choice,” she said.

The settlement agreement calls for offering 150 patients a year the chance to move out and receive services in the community. By 2015, any remaining patients “shall be served in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”

The families say it really means the closing of Gracewood. Rollins said that’s not the case.

“The thing about Gracewood is that there is always going to be individuals who will need that level of care,” she said. “So Gracewood will need to be around for that.”

Department spokesman Tom Wilson said that as other facilities close, their remaining patients likely will end up at Gracewood.

The state is attempting to comply with the 1999 Olmstead decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act required Georgia and other states to serve people in state institutions in the least restrictive setting whenever possible, including providing community services. Beasley said she struggled with the decision to put her daughter in an institution, and the only appropriate place for her daughter is at Gracewood.

“If my daughter could stay in a community setting, why would I have ever let her go to a state institution?” she said.

Future meeting planned

Many parents who turned up at Medical College of Georgia for the community forum were upset about the lack of notice and then not being able to ask questions. Augusta legislators and officials from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities have promised to hold another forum, this time at Gracewood. It has not yet been set.

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jcwilliams
0
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jcwilliams 01/18/11 - 11:31 pm
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This is just disgusting and

This is just disgusting and heinous. These residents at Gracewood are the very people the system was supposed to protect. These are the individuals that we as responsible citizens and faithful servants are supposed to keep. The state has turned their back on the disabled and mentally ill. This crap about the state settling with the Dept. of Justice....what a joke.....these government entities are the very bodies that have created the problem. Misuse of funds and the hiring of largely incompetent staff have just railroaded the mental health system. Yet we can spend 77 million a year to keep Georgia's prison population healthy cause God forbid they should have to suffer. Or better yet let's keep spending that 1.8 billion a year to educate the children of illegal immigrants here in the state. Every elected official in the state who has anything to do with the budget or the mental health system deserves a swift kick in the pants. You are shameful leaders without decency or respect. Keep padding your pockets and furthering your own agendas....you will answer to a higher power one day.

Batman
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Batman 01/19/11 - 01:06 am
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This is completely shameful.

This is completely shameful. I have said countless times before that liberals (a.k.a., progressives, Democrats) are the problem. The justice system is loaded with them. Every time you vote for a liberal politician you are voting for a liberal justice system. Face it, nothing will improve, until we wake up and vote for God fearing conservatives. Vote out the greedy (crooked) Republicans, and vote out the bleeding-heart Democrats. A functional society needs leaders who make decisions with their heads... not their hearts.

Liability
4
Points
Liability 01/19/11 - 06:33 am
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I worked at GSSH and I

I worked at GSSH and I understand the concerns parents have. Clients in the building that once was called the Infirmary and especially the Skilled Unit could not funtion in group homes or even in nursing homes. The care that the clients receive at GSSH is superb. Mrs. Knighton is correct when stating that her daughter Erika was helped with signing her name. Erika does not have the ability to make a decision and to assist Erika in signing papers giving permission is illegal. I worked with Mrs. Knighton's daughter for over 20 years. GSSH is a good facility and the changes that have been made is jeopardizing nursing licensure, etc. Closing GSSH would be an grave injustice to the clients and their families. I left in part because I was not going to jeopardize patient care and the CEO at that time when approached stated" I am surprised you did not leave sooner".

augusta citizen
8927
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augusta citizen 01/19/11 - 07:57 am
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Our homeless problem erupted

Our homeless problem erupted back when the mental institutions were closed. The push to release people from the mental hospitals centered around it not being humane to institutionalize people. Is it more humane for them to go hungry, be cold, lack the medications they need and be prey for robbings and beatings on the streets? It is unfortunate, but there are some who can't care for themselves. Caring for people who are in such need is one of the things that I don't mind paying taxes for.

CABoatright
188
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CABoatright 01/19/11 - 08:11 am
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While I understand the
Unpublished

While I understand the concerns for the patients' welfare...what about those residents that were placed by order of the court system due to their behaviors? Certainly not all Gracewood residents fall in this category, but what of those that do? Who will be responsible when criminal behaviors erupt in the group home/neighborhood where these residents are placed?

onlysane1left
216
Points
onlysane1left 01/19/11 - 08:24 am
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0
"This is completely shameful.

"This is completely shameful. I have said countless times before that liberals (a.k.a., progressives, Democrats) are the problem. The justice system is loaded with them. Every time you vote for a liberal politician you are voting for a liberal justice system. Face it, nothing will improve, until we wake up and vote for God fearing conservatives. Vote out the greedy (crooked) Republicans, and vote out the bleeding-heart Democrats. A functional society needs leaders who make decisions with their heads... not their hearts."

I agree whole hearted Batman! I think this is a health care issue and with the states cutting back on funding health care, this is what is going to happen. Health care is a racket that needs to be dismantled and rebuilted. Its a shame that no one has a clue on how that should be done. All people want to do is repeal the Health Care reform act and let the chips fall as they may........

Buckys Friend
109
Points
Buckys Friend 01/19/11 - 10:04 am
0
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I have searched and searched

I have searched and searched the internet and can't find an answer to this....how many people would be out of work and how many patients now stay there full time?

jojo55
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jojo55 01/19/11 - 09:35 pm
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This is being mandated by the

This is being mandated by the federal government. It is cheaper for a client to be served in a group home, nursing home, etc, than it is at GSSH. The money it cost just to keep up those old buildings is a fortune.
Smaller newer facilities are needed to maintain those clients that are unable to be successful living in the community under supervision. Most of the clients are able to live successfully in the community under close supervision. Look at the link www.thegao.org and you will can get all the info you need on this situation. This has been in the works for a long time now, starting in the 1990's.

chiqagolil
46
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chiqagolil 01/20/11 - 02:13 am
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Family members should be

Family members should be offered courses in taking care of their families and get CNA certification before the patients are returned home. A Support center should, also, be put in place.
For more severe cases, the family should have at least 1 member with Medical Assistant training at level II. Seek out public grants for inhome Nursing Assistants.
Otherwise, the family may become prey to unscrupulous outpatient medical practitioners and employment services.

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