Georgia still isn’t meeting federal requirements for accommodating people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, according to a new report from an independent reviewer.
It’s the latest development in a U.S. Department of Justice settlement agreement that stretches back to 2010.
At the time, the federal government found Georgia was illegally segregating residents with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals.
Since then, Georgia’s health system has come a long way, the report filed on Sept. 19 recognized, but gaps remain — particularly when it comes to connecting people to supported housing.
As part of the settlement, the state must demonstrate that it can house 9,000 people with mental illnesses who might be visiting emergency rooms, leaving jails or staying at homeless shelters.
Susan Goico, who directs the Disability Integration Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, said the state isn’t doing enough yet to spot the individuals in those places who might be eligible for housing.
“And of course, that is key to recovery,” Goico said. “You have to have a place to live in order to work toward recovery.”
The report comes nearly three months after the settlement agreement’s anticipated end — June 30, 2018. Georgia and the Justice Department had agreed to wait for the latest report until determining whether the state is in compliance.
Now, with the report submitted, the two parties will decide the future of the settlement agreement in court.
In a statement, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said it’s proud of the progress the state has made in improving community- and hospital-based services.
“We are confident that we can continue to provide quality community-based services in a sustainable and systemic manner without federal oversight,” the statement concluded.