State hospitals meet safety and treatment standards

August 26, 2010

ATLANTA – Georgia’s psychiatric hospitals meet national standards for safe and effective care according to the independent body that accredits them. The Joint Commission, an organization that sets quality standards for healthcare providers and evaluates their performance, surveyed each of Georgia’s seven state hospitals serving people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders. During the unannounced inspections the Joint Commission looked at many of the same safety and treatment issues that were the subject of a settlement agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2009. All seven hospitals received continuing accreditation based on their quality of care, physical environments, and operations.

“Our agency was created last year to improve care and to make our hospitals safer and more effective,” said Dr. Frank Shelp, Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), the state agency that oversees Georgia’s psychiatric hospitals. “That each of our hospitals has withstood the scrutiny of national experts and received their seal of approval is a testament to that hard work.”

Hospitals and behavioral health programs that are accredited by the Joint Commission are evaluated every three years. The recent surveys were the first for Georgia since heightened attention was brought to its mental health system in 2007 and the first since the launch of DBHDD in July 2009. Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly created the stand-alone agency to focus on policies, programs, and services for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.

Additional funding provided to the department in the 2010 legislative session is being used to increase the number of doctors and nurses, provide better training, and improve the physical environments in the seven state hospitals, and to expand the community services that can help prevent the need for hospitalization.

“DBHDD’s accreditation is a demonstration of the organization’s leadership and staff commitment to excellence,” says Mary Cesare-Murphy, Ph.D., executive director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission. “Joint Commission accreditation requires organization-wide dedication to providing safe, client-focused care, treatment and services.”

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits more than 17,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, including more than 9,500 hospitals and home care organizations, and more than 6,300 other health care organizations that provide long term care, behavioral health care, laboratory and ambulatory care services. In addition, The Joint Commission also provides certification of more than 1,000 disease-specific care programs, primary stroke centers, and health care staffing services. An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at

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