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Georgia: New Guidelines For Mental Hospitals

Armen Hareyan's picture

In an effort to improve the care of persons admitted into Georgia's statewide psychiatric hospitals, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) has implemented uniform medical care policies and procedures. More than 200,000 people are served by state hospitals each year - many of whom suffer from debilitating mental illnesses in addition to acute physical conditions resulting in the need for better coordinated psychiatric and medical support.

"Today, every mental health hospital has primary medical care staff," said Gwen Skinner, Director for the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases which is administered under DHR. "Uniform policies, additional medical staff, and new staff training will allow for early diagnosis and intervention resulting in improved outcomes for clients."

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The medical staff is part of a team representing the various disciplines involved in treating a patient who may have diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease, in addition to acute or long-standing mental illness. A team approach allows the psychiatrists, medical physicians, caseworkers, pharmacists and nutritionists to collaborate on behalf of the best care for that patient. Hospitals have also implemented a preventive medicine program that follows the guidelines of the American Academy of Family Physicians to assure immunizations are current and screening is completed for cancers, glaucoma, diabetes, hypertension, and infectious diseases. To provide healthier diets, each hospital has changed their menus, snacks and vending machine contents.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certification is also required of all direct care staff. In addition to providing better care, DHR has been working to improve safety and security measures.

On key national measures of safety and security, outcomes for Georgia's hospitals are at or below national rates. Reliance on seclusion and restraint to control the actions of hospital consumers remains well below the national average for state operated psychiatric hospitals. Though medication error rates have increased nationally, they are trending downward in Georgia. And the rate of client injuries has been reduced to be more consistent with national norms.