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Letters to the Editor
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Good news, bad news on Georgia mental health


As President of NAMI Georgia (National Alliance on Mental Illness), I would like to congratulate Gwen Skinner, Director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Addictive Diseases (MHDDAD) of the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) under the leadership of Commissioner B. J. Walker for allocating grant funds for a Crisis Intervention Team Program (CIT), an innovative landmark statewide training of law enforcement.  By doing so, this potentially sets Georgia up to be a nation wide model of community collaboration at its best.

NAMI National, NAMI Georgia’s national organization, recently completed a comprehensive survey, grading each state’s adult public mental health system. Overall, nation wide America’s adult public mental health system was graded a D.  Only 5 states received a B; 17 states received C’s; and 19 received D’s. 

This grading system underscores that less than 1/3 of adults with mental illness receive treatment. It is no surprise that Georgia received a D.  

There is more bad news in America—progress is stalled and at risk.  Our mental healthcare system faces a financial crisis as well as a need to catch up with advances in science with proven, cost-efficient treatment practices. 

But there is also good news — new drugs and therapies have vastly improved the outlook for millions of Americans with mental illness.  The treatment success rates in some cases are comparable with success rates for those with heart disease.  That should encourage more and more to be educated, to understand and to seek treatment and to rid stigma.

The great news here in Georgia is there is HOPE! We, members of NAMI, are committed to make every effort to raise Georgia’s grade to a HOPE level of B.  NAMI with guidance from Director Vernon Keenan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received a grant from the DHR to train 3000 law enforcement officers statewide with a POST (Police Officer Safety Training) certified 40-hour training course called Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), which was adopted from a Memphis, Tennessee Police Department program. 

CIT modules such as Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness, Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia, Developmental Disabilities and others are taught by volunteer local professionals.  Officers master skills in how to deescalate and deal with citizens that may suffer from severe mental illness and other brain disorders and learn to recognize the illness in order to more appropriately route those individuals to treatment centers as opposed to jails. 

Our jails are full of those, including veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, who committed crimes due to their illness and not because they are criminals.  CIT training has proven to assist both law enforcement in doing their very difficult jobs and consumers and their families in seeking the appropriate medical care in order to lead productive meaningful lives.

Commissioner of Department of Human Resources B.J. Walker and Director of MHDDAD Gwen Skinner thank you for your astute leadership and for giving our communities the opportunity to educate some of our most honored leaders—police officers.  Unfortunately, they have become the de facto mental health workers.  This grant will equip officers with valuable tools to help a most mistreated and neglected population.  Our goal is for everyone with a mental illness/brain disorder to have the opportunity to recover--to be self-reliant and contribute to his or her community.

Nora Lott Haynes

NAMI Georgia President


No doubting St. Thomas


The volunteers of the St. Thomas Thrift Store want to express their sincere thanks to our customers and readers of Connect Savannah for selecting the St. Thomas Thrift Store one of the Best in Savannah in your recent Reader’s Poll.  The honor came as a complete surprise, especially since the shop is relatively small in comparison to similar entities.

The St. Thomas Thrift Store, an outreach ministry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, is staffed by volunteers, and all merchandise is donated. Last year our net proceeds of $25,000 funded grants to community charitable organizations and youth programs.  Some of the groups receiving donations were Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center, The Rape Crisis Center, Park Place Outreach (formerly Savannah Runaway ), CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocacy), the West Broad Street YMCA, and  Safe Shelter.

The store offers a selection of quality clothing for the entire family, toys, games, collectibles, antiques, household items and books, all reasonable priced and in good condition. From our famous $2.00 Bag Sale rack customers can get a bag full of clothing, etc. for only $2.00.

We encourage all your readers to visit the shop at 5500 White Bluff Rd. and see what they have been missing!

Sue Tengg

Chairman, St. Thomas Thrift Store Board