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Team of specialists to boost expertise in state hospitals

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News release from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

ATLANTA -- The state agency in charge of Georgia's psychiatric hospitals is bringing in more than two dozen clinicians, experts, and trainers to dramatically boost the expertise available in those facilities.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) is contracting with a team of experts to provide specialized skills, improve professional standards of care, and standardize procedures across all seven hospitals. The first of those experts began assisting at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville last week.

"As I've toured each of our state hospitals, it's become clear that we're not only understaffed, but that we lack the depth of expertise that should be present in every facility," said DBHDD Commissioner Frank Shelp, M.D., M.P.H. "Although we're building that expertise internally, it would take us a year or more to get to what we consider an adequate level. That's why we're bringing in this team of clinicians and trainers to help make immediate improvements while we solidify our own expertise."

The team of experts will include psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and specialists in critical fields such as suicide prevention, choking and aspiration, patient-on-patient assaults, discharge planning, treatment, and rehabilitation.

DBHDD has recruited a project manager to lead the team who has experience working with state mental health systems to address issues surrounding the civil rights of patients in institutional care. The team's immediate task will be implementing training and procedures that will improve the safety of hospital consumers.

"During the first hundred days of DBHDD's existence, we've focused on getting the right people, processes, and technology in place," said Commissioner Shelp. "This team of experts will make an immediate difference in all three of those areas."