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Crisis center for Georgians with disabilities set to open in Macon

Staff and community members break ground to celebrate the beginning of construction for a new Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center on Sept. 21, 2023 in downtown Macon.
Staff and community members break ground to celebrate the beginning of construction for a new Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center on Sept. 21, 2023 in downtown Macon.

The new Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center for middle Georgia broke ground on Sept. 20 in downtown Macon. The center will be the first of its kind in Georgia to handle behavioral health crises exclusively for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

According to Kevin Tanner, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), the center will provide care for people with disabilities from across the state who require specialized care they wouldn’t receive in a hospital.  

“We have a gap right now where we have individuals, on average about 21 people every single day, stuck in an emergency room in Georgia with a developmental disability,” Tanner said. “That's not the proper place. They need to be somewhere they can have the right treatment.”

The project is the result of a collaboration between the DBHDD, River Edge Behavioral Health, and Mercer University's School of Medicine. Construction will last through next year with an estimated opening date of January 2025.

The outpatient services provided at the center will range from behavioral health assessments, dentistry, physical therapy, psychiatry, and more. The 34,000-square-foot facility will also provide inpatient services with beds for up to 16 adults. Individuals with disabilities will be provided with a customized treatment plan with a goal to reintegrate them into the community and instructions for doctors on their future care.

Dr. Jean Sumner, dean of the school of medicine at Mercer and a member of DBHDD’s advisory board, said this holistic approach to care is what makes the project so significant.

“This gives a central location where they can get world class care, but go back to their communities and the community can get guidance on their needs,” Sumner said.

According to Sumner, another goal of the center is to educate Georgia’s future healthcare professionals on how to work with those with disabilities and provide opportunities for clinical research. This, she said, is the core of Mercer’s School of Medicine’s mission: to serve rural, underserved populations. 

“There are no training programs for physicians to really care for these people,” Sumner said. “It's really important to show excellent care and teach your physicians and communities that they deserve the same care as anyone. So it's a great opportunity for central Georgia.” 

Greta O’Dell, who oversees the IDD program at River Edge Behavioral Health, said that when someone enters the new center’s emergency room they will receive crisis stabilization through crisis intervention techniques, behavioral support, and multi-disciplinary medical evaluations. 

“We hope that this model of high quality care under one roof will become the new standard of care when supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” O’Dell said.

Commissioner Tanner requested $3.2 million for next year's budget in order to fund the center, and Governor Kemp’s full budget proposal will be unveiled in January.

Eliza Moore

Eliza Moore ‘24 is an English and Journalism student at Mercer University. She is now in her second year working as The Cluster’s News Editor after a semester abroad. She is currently producing work for Macon Magazine and Georgia Public Broadcasting in addition to her work with The Cluster. She loves breakfasts, the ocean, and all things related to writing.

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