Gateway Behavioral Health Crisis Center Offers Services For Those In Crisis

 
L-R: Maureen McFadden, Director of Child and Adolescent Programs and Director of Outreach; Leigh Ann Kittles, Clinical Services Manager; Dr. Jay Synn, Medical Director of the BHCC and Kayela Whitten, Peer Specialist

Gateway Behavioral Health Crisis Center’s mission is to be a leader in the provision of comprehensive community services for mental health, substance use disorders, developmental disorders, and disabilities to the people and communities it serves.

During an interview with Kayla Hughes, a Savannah Tribune intern, Mrs. McFadden, Director of Child and Adolescent Programs and Director of Outreach at Gateway Behavioral Health Crisis Center discussed how funding became available to build the Center. “The facility was mainly funded through 6.3 million dollars from the legislator and without Chatham County putting in $700,000 this facility would not have been in the Savannah area,’’ said McFadden.

“This facility houses individuals within a “crisis unit” also known as acute hospitalization. Ideally it is a 5-7 day stay, many patients leave after a day or two. The stay can be extended a day or 2 longer at Gateway due to the Georgia Regional facility experiencing limited access due to COVID-19.” said Dr. Jay Synn, Medical Director of the BHCC. If an individual is in a crisis, there is a 1-hour 8am-9am window in which a person can walk into the facility for an evaluation. The facility is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Gateway Behavioral has a staff of 80 clinicians, doctors, and nurses. The staff members can complete assessments, safety plans, and treatment plans. If the individual needs to be accepted into the crisis unit, he/she is taken back to be scanned for COVID-19, given a skin assessment for any wounds that may need to be treated while under the care of the facility. This facility is centered around recovery, with groups throughout the day held on different topics of mental health. Each member of the faculty is properly trained on how to lead a group throughout the workday focusing on recovery.

County Conmissioner Helen Stone
County Conmissioner Helen Stone

When asked about services offered, Leigh Ann Kittles, Clinical Services Manager stated, “We offer wrap-around services if they don’t meet criteria and need more individual counseling at an outpatient level. When they leave, we set them up with individual counseling appointments, doctors appointments, and assigned case managers. If they need a higher level of care, we have intensive case managers here in the community. We offer a day program that has group sessions, help with employment, and substance abuse groups with different levels of care,” Kittles continued.

The treatment center is personalized to each client, and the needs of that particular client. For those individuals who do need a higher level of care, this facility offers intensive care case managers, as well as a day program where the individual can attend a peer-led group. This facility offers supportive employment, substance abuse groups and different levels of care for adults. One of the newest programs is the STRIVE Clinic. Individuals 14 years of age and up are accepted from all over Georgia. This program offers a certified peer specialist, a clinician, family therapy, and family groups. STRIVE is a program offered by Gateway, which is a facility that holds 16 units in Bloomingdale, providing an average stay of 10 days. This facility offers parent-peer support, mindfulness training, while providing transportation for the individual at the facility. Gateway is DBHDB funded which means that this facility is dedicated to those individuals with no insurance or those who are underinsured, homeless, and living in poverty.

In an interview with Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone, she stated “developing Gateway Behavioral Crisis Center began about 4 years ago with Dr. Mark Johnson working with Gateway and Gateway working with the State of Georgia to create a Behavioral Crisis Center to serve individuals in crisis. It helps to divert them from jail and the emergency room to a place where they can get help. This facility gives first responders a place to take someone and drop them off as opposed to having to sit with them. It took about four years in the making but I am very proud of the collaborative efforts with Chatham County and the other entities that provide wrap-around services.”

NACO (National Association of Counties) was the onset of this and started with the Stepping Up Program. What they try to do is intercept an individual at the different stages of intervention. We work at Intercept 0 which prevents someone from going through the judicial system and gets them the help they need before they have been adjudicated or incarcerated.

The Chatham County Commissioners started looking at the funds that had been allocated to the Chatham County Detention Center which absorbs almost half of taxes collected. Then they started looking at the inmate population. Approximately 28% of the inmate population suffer from a behavioral disorder and they need help. They are relying on medication or treatment, but when your brain is not functioning properly, we need to do something to help that segment of the population from recidivating in our jail.. They are rotating in and out because they are not getting the treatment needed. This causes our taxpayers to continue to pay for the inmate population.

Since the opening of Gateway Behavioral Health Crisis Center in mid-2020, right in the middle of COVID-19, the number of inmates with behavioral health issues at the detention center has been reduced.

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