Originally created 11/29/00

Mental health board addresses criticism



Emotions spilled over Tuesday at the meeting of the Community Service Board of East Central Georgia between board members and a local mental health advocacy group.

The board, which oversees the Community Mental Health Center, heard a lengthy rebuttal from administration to recent criticism from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill chapter in Augusta. The alliance has received a host of complaints about the level of care there, said acting alliance Chief Executive Officer M.J. Shirey.

The center has been plagued by financial problems from previous management that cost the center more than $2 million in payments, said Chief Operating Officer Mike Brockman. The center had to become more productive and has also had to restructure because of managed care, said Executive Director Campbell Peery. Those changes may have upset clients, but care is better now, he said.

Staff members also rebutted the group's charges of poor care.

"We further request that the public floggings cease," said clinical manager Patrick Waters.

But each allegation came from a client or a family member and reflects real concerns, Mrs. Shirey told the board.

"We can't tolerate the clients not getting their services when they're in crises or having problems," she said.

After a series of exchanges with board members about other allegations - such as not returning calls from consumers, which board members said were returned - board Chairman Jim Points grew visibly upset at the continuing allegations.

"You're finished," he said, cutting off Mrs. Shirey when she continued talking.

Both sides later said they would be willing to meet and talk, and Mr. Points said the incident was over "as far as I'm concerned."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.