Breaking News
More () »

Warner Robins crisis center reopens, rebrands to help break mental health stigma

The reopening allows patients to once again receive crisis care closer to home.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Forbes ranks Georgia as the fourth worst state for mental health care, and organizations like Middle Georgia Health & Wellness are looking to change that with a new rebranding and reopening.

CEO Angela Holt says the rebranding was to help break the stigma around the idea of the word "behavioral." 

"Just that word, 'behavioral,' brings forth a concept of criminality or someone that's a problem when, actually, they're just having a mental-health issue," says Holt. 

She says they want the focus to be more holistic because they offer many services. 

"I think just coming at it from a holistic standpoint and encompassing all things that make a person OK, that'd be our focus and that'd be the way we can better serve the community," says Holt.

Wednesday morning, the center celebrated the reopening of their Pheonix Center Adult Crisis Stabilization Unit. It serves folks who are experiencing mental-health crisis, withdrawal from drugs, or having thoughts of suicide. 

The organization is supported by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. This allows anyone 18 years and older to come receive help through the center. 

"This crisis unit is a 14-bed crisis unit and our goal is to one day, very soon, expand it to a 30-bed unit," says CEO Angela Holt 

Middle Flint Health & Wellness serves 11 counties including Central Georgia's Houston, Peach, Crisp, Dooly, Macon, Crawford, and Taylor counties. 

These counties also have access to a Crisis Response Team. Holt says they established it in response to Senate Bill 403, known as the "co-responder law." Holt says they wanted to make sure all law enforcement agencies had access to clinicians and therapists in emergencies. 

"Most law enforcement are the first to encounter someone who's experiencing some sort of mental illness, a psychiatric break, or anything like that. They need some assistance to know how to get someone from the street corner to a place where they can receive some help," says Holt. 

This is not the co-responders program, although they assist in a similar fashion. All county and city agencies that they service have access to use the crisis response team. 

"Our crisis response team is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they assist with our law enforcement making those boots on the ground assessments," she adds.

It's something the Houston County Sheriff's Office uses often, "Almost daily, actually. We have a lot of 'order to apprehends' signed pretty regularly," says Lieutenant Brian Branton with the Houston County Sheriff's Office. 

He says for an order to apprehend, families can go to a probate judge for a pick-up order, and the officers will then take these patients to Middle Flint. 

After this they will have access to either the crisis care center or the outpatient resource center. 

Branton says it also allows extra support for the sheriff's office.

"We can call Middle Flint and they'll have someone come out or they can speak with someone over the phone, and that makes it easier for us," he says. 

When the clinic was temporarily closed, Branton says they would have to take patients almost two hours away. 

"When Middle Flint was shut down, we would have to take them to Columbus or Macon, who was gracious enough to allow us to take them to Atrium," says Branton. 

According to the DBHDD, the office has to take patients to the closest emergency receiving facility, which is technically in Columbus. Now with the clinic back open, they can receive care closer to home. 

"It doesn't take a referral, it doesn't take law enforcement to be involved, it doesn't take any of those barriers. You can just walk right up and get what you need," says Holt. 

The crisis center does take referrals from the emergency room, doctor's offices, and judges, but a referral is not necessary.

Middle Flint Health & Wellness also offers services for people with developmental disabilities like autism and cerebral palsy.

You can find out more about their services at their website.


Before You Leave, Check This Out