2018 is Here!

Happy New Year!  I hope each of you was able to rest and spend quality time with loved ones as 2017 came to a close.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to our hospital and provider staff who worked through the holidays.  I am humbled by the dedication that you all demonstrate year round.

The coming year will be a busy one for DBHDD, and I am very optimistic about 2018.  June 30 will mark the end of the ADA Settlement Agreement Extension.  Achieving compliance with the agreement is our department’s number one priority.  Every part of our agency, as well as our providers and stakeholders, plays a critical part in realizing this goal. 

As a result of the generous support of Governor Nathan Deal and the General Assembly, we have invested more than $235 million dollars into Settlement services across the 2012-2018 budgets.  Those dollars have been put to work!  Since the original agreement was signed in 2010, we have dramatically transformed the system of care for Georgians with behavioral health challenges and intellectual and developmental disabilities, leading to improved access to higher quality services that make recovery and independence a reality.  We believe that with continued strong efforts to meet the remaining targets in the Settlement Extension, we can demonstrate evidence of this transformation and successfully exit the Agreement.  This will allow us to drive the next wave of improvement to our system with local oversight and accountability.

While achieving compliance with the Settlement Agreement remains our top priority in 2018, I want to mention two other critical initiatives.  First, on the heels of Attorney General Chris Carr’s Statewide Opioid Task Force, the Department of Public Health is now leading the development of Georgia’s Statewide Targeted Response to the opioid epidemic.  We are proud to work in partnership with diverse stakeholders, providing expertise in the prevention, treatment, and recovery aspects of the opioid epidemic.  Stay tuned for action items and accountability measures to ensure a responsive plan that reflects Georgia’s concern and commitment regarding this crisis.

In addition, Governor Deal created the Commission on Children’s Mental Health in 2017, and I was honored to serve as co-chair with Katie Childers, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.  In December, the Commission presented the Governor a report providing recommendations for appropriate future actions to address children’s mental health needs.  These included school-based mental health services, crisis services, suicide prevention, education and prevention of opioid use, telemedicine infrastructure, and training on evidence-based practices.  Members of the Commission acknowledged new investments in autism services and funding for early intervention for children aged 0-4 that will complement the recommendations.  We eagerly await the Governor’s response, knowing with certainty that the state of Georgia could not have more passionate advocates for children than Governor Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal.

On a final note, the 2018 Session of the General Assembly convened yesterday.  We have no plans to promote specific legislation, but we look forward to watching and responding to legislative action that affects the health care industry and the people we serve.

Here’s what I believe as the new year gets underway: When powered by collaboration, DBHDD and our provider partners and our allies have the dedication, talent, and commitment to achieve anything we set our minds to accomplish.



Judy Fitzgerald

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