Desiree Murphy and Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times
With the official closure of Southwestern Hospital in Thomasville imminent, hundreds of patients with mental and behavioral issues will be displaced in the region.
To accommodate around one third of the patients, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (BHDD) built a new Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Lowndes County,which officially opened Monday. A similar center in Albany is being expanded and another center identical to the one in Valdosta will be opening in Thomasville as well.
BHDD Commissioner Frank Berry visited Valdosta Monday to help cut the ribbon on the center, located at 3116 N. Oak Street Ext.
Commissioner Berry stressed that unlike the state hospital of the past, this facility will strive to help people on a short-term level and will also help get them the proper after-care services.
He said this facility will welcome people from all walks of life, whether homeless, uninsured, or low-income. People in dire situations will be led to the proper services to help them get their lives back on track.
“We want everyone to be able to receive safe, high quality care,” said Berry.
The 24-bed facility will be staffed 24/7 to serve individuals in acute distress. When an individual in the community behaves in a manner that would merit further assistance, if there is no medical emergency, the individual would go straight to the crisis center and not the emergency room at the hospital.
South Georgia Medical Center currently treats about 135 patients with mental illness each month, of which approximately 20 were transferred to Southwestern, and nearly half of the rest were sent to other facilities around the state.
Southwestern costs the state approximately $35 million annually to operate, according to Berry, while the Lowndes Center will cost $5.2 million per year to operate. The state is investing $20 million for construction of the facilities and for transition homes in the various communities.
After the speakers finished, the ribbon was cut by Behavioral Health of South Georgia CEO David Sofferin, who was joined by Commissioner Frank Berry and fellow board members who helped make the facility a reality. An open house was then held to allow guests to tour the new facility.