Georgia taxpayers have spent more than $13 million on a failed mental health program that has prevented hundreds of mentally ill people, including those released from state hospitals and jails, from getting treatment needed to stabilize them, according to audit documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Now, the state is trying to salvage the undertaking by booting out the primary service provider and awarding no-bid contracts to local nonprofit mental health organizations. Not only does that mean money wasted, but it also means the state will spend the next few months scrambling to set up a system that will provide reliable care to those 2,000 seriously mentally ill Georgians who need it.
“We’ve lost valuable time in Georgia,” said Frank Bonati, chief of Gateway Behavioral Health in southeast Georgia, one of the best-rated agencies charged with providing community care. “We spent a year when we could have been providing care to critically mentally ill persons and now have to go back to jump street. You have lost a year of experience.”
The state is nearing the halfway point in the five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to move patients who had been institutionalized in hospitals into intensive community-based treatment programs. An investigation by the AJC found dozens of hospitalized patients dying of abuse and neglect.
In today's newspaper, the AJC looks at Georgia's failure to provide adequate mental health services. It's a story you'll only get by picking up a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app .
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