Behavioral Health Center to come for Thomas County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Behavioral Health Center to come for Thomas Co.

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Frank Berry (far right) and a member of his staff speaking with Rep. Darlene Taylor and a member of her staff Frank Berry (far right) and a member of his staff speaking with Rep. Darlene Taylor and a member of her staff
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry
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THOMAS COUNTY, GA (WALB) -

Barbara Collins is retired now, but worked as the Admissions Director for Southwestern State Hospital since it opened.

She still serves on several hospital committees and strongly disagrees with the decision to close the hospital and open a crisis center.

"I think it will be a disaster for the patients receiving services there. The services there are top notch."

Collins was one of several former and current employees and other community leaders in attendance this morning for Commissioner Frank Berry's announcement.

"A huge number of these patients are dangerous patients and there we had facilities for that. How are we going to have facilities in the community?"

"This is part of the community build up that we have been talking about for many years now. Since 2010 as a matter of fact. With the settlement agreement the United States has with the Department of Justice," said Berry.

"I welcome any investment in our region. It is very important. But I still feel like we have to work for the patients and our employees. The fight doesn't stop here," said Representative Darlene Taylor.

Taylor says she plans to continue speaking with Governor Nathan Deal's staff about the status of the more than 600 employees who will be out of work at the end of the year.

"I didn't know what the announcement was going to be so I'll talk about this and make sure the numbers are adding up and this is really as functioning as it needs to be."

Commissioner Berry says the plan is for many of the current hospital staff members to transition into these community crisis centers.

"From a salary standpoint, the work that gets done in the behavioral heath crisis service centers is very comparable in pay and pay grade to the state hospital merit system positions that we have. So the hope is that will be a seamless process."

Collins says she understands the federal mandate to assimilate developmentally disabled patients into the community, but Southwestern has several other units.

"The mandated order is not to close Southwestern. It is to close the developmentally disabled area which is the Rose Haven unit."

The new $5 million Thomas County facility will have 24 permanent beds, with six other beds for temporary observation.

Berry says this will create 58 new jobs in Thomas County, but Southwestern will still be shutting down at the end of the year.

Commissioner Berry says the Thomas County facility, which will be located on Cassidy Road in Thomasville, should be up and running by November.

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