Fulton to start up mental health services on a bus

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Fulton County is taking mental and behavioral health services to the streets — or, at least to public places where people gather.

The Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities has a new Mobile Mental Health Unit, a big blue bus that will appear at community events, county senior and multipurpose centers, libraries, schools and other public locations.

It will serve as a “gateway” to county services, said department director LaTrina Foster. Staff on the bus can tell people about resources or refer them to county clinics and other health care providers, she said.

The bus has three one-on-one consulting rooms. Therapists can use them to do brief assessments and, if needed, refer people to outpatient clinics, Foster said.

Staff on the Mobile Mental Health Unit will be equipped with information on mental health and substance abuse, COVID-19, access to county behavioral health services, appointment scheduling, and preventive health care. It features telehealth services, TV monitors inside and out, a restroom, and wheelchair accessibility.

The Mobile Mental Health Unit was bought with a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services — Office of Minority Health. Its operating costs will be rolled into the existing departmental budget with current staff, said Pamela Roshell, county chief operating officer for Health, Human Services & Public Works.

While there is no charge for the services on the bus, patients with insurance or other financial means may be referred to their providers of choice, Foster said.

Fulton County provides free or low-cost behavioral health care to the uninsured. Any charges are on an income-based sliding scale, and the county also accepts Medicare or Medicaid.

The county has four clinics that provide behavioral health services for children and adolescents, and three more for adults. Patients who have private insurance are referred to other providers.

Fulton County is one of the few communities that received this federal funding to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19 and improve health literacy, she said.

For now the bus is scheduled to be at a few events, but that may be adjusted as its operators get public feedback, Foster said. On the department’s website, people will eventually be able to request the bus at their community events, she said.

“We will be prioritizing communities with a greater percentage of uninsured residents and other communities that face health equity gaps,” said Erica Miller, senior public affairs officer for Fulton County.

One of its first stops was a veterans’ event in Newtown Park in Johns Creek on June 3. Upcoming stops include:

  • June 8: 10a.m. to 2p.m. at the Oak Hill Child, Adolescent & Family Center, 2805 Metropolitan Parkway SW, Atlanta.
  • June 12: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the North Fulton Service Center, 7741 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs.
  • June 22: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the South Fulton Service Center, 5600 Stonewall Tell Road, College Park.

For more information go to www.fultoncountyga.gov/behavioralhealthmobileunit or contact Program Evaluation Specialist Brian Williams at brian1.williams@fultoncountyga.gov.