State officials will meet with community leaders to discuss the future of Southwestern State Hospital property.
Frank Berry, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Development Disabilities (GDBHDD) commissioner, told the Times-Enterprise the meeting will take place in a couple of weeks.
The regional GDBHDD office and a substance abuse facility are in old Southwestern housing now.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal addressed a joint Rotary/Kiwanis club meeting Tuesday at The Plaza Restaurant.
At the end of his talk, Deal introduced Berry, saying he knew those attending the meeting had “issues and concerns” about Southwestern closing.
The 400 South Pine Tree Boulevard state mental hospital, which employed about 650, closed Dec. 31.
Deal said the closing resulted from a U.S. Department of Justice edict that said patients in Georgia mental hospitals must be “deinstitutionlized.”
“And that, of course, is where your facility is classified, in that category,” Deal told Rotary and Kiwanis members.
Berry said large numbers of people were having to travel long distances to receive treatment. Data showed many people were coming to Thomasville from Albany and Valdosta for treatment.
Noting that Southwestern closed three months ago, Berry said, “Everything is not working perfectly. We understand that.”
With various area treatment facilities, people with addiction or mental illness can stay closer to home while recovering, Berry said.
Many former Southwestern employees now work at Georgia Pines, a Thomasville facility that offers a full array of community-based services, he added.
“You’ve been very vocal, and it has impacted the way we provide services,” the commissioner told the group.
Berry said he hopes the judiciary and law enforcement realize advantages of not having to transport those in need of services for long distances.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.