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Mental health services to expand in county

The Dougherty County Mental Health Outpatient Center is receiving additional funding to expand infrastructure and mental health services. Tuesday’s announcement came from Frank Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

The Dougherty County Mental Health Outpatient Center is receiving additional funding to expand infrastructure and mental health services. Tuesday’s announcement came from Frank Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Local officials and community leaders got some good news Tuesday. The Dougherty County Mental Health Outpatient Center has been chosen as the recipient of an additional $4.9 million to expand infrastructure and mental health services.

The announcement came from Frank Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities during a brief meeting at the Outpatient Center at 601 11th Ave.

The expansion will create a Behavioral Health Crisis Center, featuring increased capacity from 24 beds to 30, as well as six temporary observation beds, said Kay Brooks, CEO of the Outpatient Center. According to Brooks, a crucial component of the Health Crisis Center will be a full-time walk-in crisis center to direct new patients either to temporary observation or to a crisis observation bed, depending on several factors.

"If we have accessibility to a walk-in crisis center, we can take care of that person here before they might possibly need to go to an inpatient setting. It's quicker, easier access to treatment," Brooks said.

According to Brooks, an additional 20 jobs will be created with the expansion of the Dougherty facility.

In his address, Berry said the real purpose of modern behavioral health care is to serve and treat as many patients as possible within the community itself, rather than forcing them to live away from family, friends, their jobs and even their faith communities

"The dream of serving people in their own communities is now becoming reality," Berry said. "That, to me, is what's so exciting about a day like today."

According to Berry, there are no expectations of eliminating patient beds in major state behavioral facilities.

"There will always be a number of beds in our state hospitals, which will continue to serve people who need long-term care," Berry said. "We also know there are private psychiatric hospitals we'll be partnering with which have expressed interest in serving those who need a longer stay. But because of new funding, some who have historically gone to Thomasville will be able to stay here. That's the goal of this."

The DBHDD is the state agency that focuses solely on policies, programs and services for people with mental illness, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities. The Dougherty County center serves eight counties in Southwest Georgia.