Welfare Watch - April 07, 2009 - DBHDD when it Grows Up

What will the new Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities look like when it grows up?  This Division has finally been kicked out of the Department of Human Services house to be on its own.  Given its massive responsibilities over the years and its sizeable (but not adequate) budget, it is time that it is given the recognition it deserves.  HB 228 creates the new Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.  This new Department will have its own Board, similar to that of the Department of Human Resources.  This board will be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. 

The one danger for all young organizations leaving the nest is not its independence, but whether it can fully appreciate the inter-dependence of being a full blown department.  In HB 228 a Behavioral Health Coordinating Council is created to address this "interdependence" at the state executive level.  This Council will be attached to DBHDD and will consist of the Commissioners of Human Services, Juvenile Justice, and Corrections, along with an adult consumer, a parent of a minor child consumer, a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

The purposes of the BHCC are:

  1. Develop solutions to the systemic barriers or problems to the delivery of behavioral services.
  2. Focus on specific goals on interrelationship.
  3. Monitor implementation of goals.
  4. Establish common outcome measures.
  5. Provide annual reports to the Governor and the General Assembly.

The Regional Planning Boards and the Community Service Boards remain unchanged in HB 228.  Both keep the responsibilities and privileges that they previously had in DHR while in the Division.  "Permissive" language in the law allows the Department of BHDD to use them in manners that further the purposes of the Department.   

Advocates for the Addictive Diseases consumers lost their battle to have their name included in the new department.  The rationale by the House and Senate leadership is that they want the new Department to determine the structure of the new Department. 

The new Commissioner for the new Department has yet to be appointed.  Many advocates believe that the current Division Chief, Gwen Skinner, has done a remarkable job leading the Division through some very difficult times.  She has gained the respect of the public and the Federal inspectors watching our State Hospitals.  Most advocates would like to see her complete the transition of the Division to its new Department status. 

Time will tell whether this new infant of a Department will be a respectable adult.  We hope that it does not forget that it is a part of a larger community, that cooperation and collaboration is key to effective services.  It must stand on it own feet and have its own voice for the people it serves. 

Welfare Watch, an email newsletter of the
Georgia Association of Homes
and Services for Children
as a public service.
Normer Adams, Editor

Catalyst for CARE Annual Conference April 27-29, 2009

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