Calhoun Times

2021 Year in Review: Excellence at every level

- Melanie Dallas is a licensed profession­al counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for individual­s with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectu­al and developmen­tal disabiliti­es in the 12-

As we look back over 2021, I will admit I didn’t think we would still be dealing with COVID 19. Yet here we are. But even if 2021 didn’t have quite the same sense of urgency around this disease as 2020, it was still an important considerat­ion in our operations. Thankfully, our staff rose to the occasion, as they did in 2020, as they always do, getting vaccinated, washing their hands, wearing masks in our facilities — in short, doing what needed to be done in order to keep our doors open and serve our communitie­s.

That Highland Rivers continued to provide services throughout 2021, in-person and through tele-medicine, helping thousands of individual­s with behavioral health needs, is one of the most important highlights of 2021. And that’s why I am mentioning it first.

Community Service Boards like Highland Rivers are the state’s behavioral health safety net, providing treatment and recovery services to individual­s who are low-income, uninsured or underinsur­ed, for mental health challenges, substance use disorders, and intellectu­al and developmen­tal disabiliti­es. As in 2020, there has rarely been a time when behavioral health services have been more essential.

Because the success of our agency is first and foremost a function of the commitment of our staff, so too was an honor we received this fall, when the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmen­tal Disabiliti­es named Highland Rivers Health Georgia’s

2021 Behavioral Health Provider of the Year.

As I noted at the time, this award really belongs to our more than 650 staff members — we persevered during the past year because of the compassion, care and dedication of every single member of our team, Again, our staff is one of the most important highlights of our agency every year — every day, really — and I am extremely grateful to them.

Highland Rivers received a similar affirmatio­n earlier in the 2021 with the renewal of our accreditat­ion by the Commission on Accreditat­ion of Rehabilita­tion Facilities (CARF) Internatio­nal. Although we have been CARFaccred­ited since 2003, it is always gratifying to know we do such good work when compared to objective industry standards.

The accreditat­ion process included a review of more than 230 key operationa­l areas across 26 agency service lines by a team of seven CARF surveyors. The three-day survey took place in May and included a comprehens­ive review of agency policies, procedures and program plans. Surveyors also examined outcome data, service documentat­ion and HIPPA compliance, and conducted interviews with agency staff, board members and individual­s receiving services from Highland Rivers Health.

The CARF report stated that our commitment to continuous quality improvemen­t drives our goal to provide much-needed services and supports in the community. Likewise, program audits conducted by the Georgia Administra­tive Services Organizati­on and DBHDD both resulted in exemplary scores for the agency. In all three cases, such excellence is a reflection of our staff more than anything else.

Finally, Highland Rivers undertook several initiative­s and partnershi­ps that are important to the communitie­s and individual­s we serve including: two grant partnershi­ps, with Mercer University and Morehouse School of Medicine, to target opioids; the third annual Operation Gratitude virtual recovery celebratio­n for veterans receiving services from our agency; an online LGBTQ+ training for families, as well as a Family Fun Day event and resource fair sponsored by our System of Care program; and developmen­t of a series of videos shared on social media that highlighte­d first-person stories of recovery.

Most recently of course is the announceme­nt that both Cobb County Community Services Board and Haralson Behavioral Health Services will be consolidat­ed into Highland Rivers, and we will become known as Highland Rivers Behavioral Health. This work is ongoing and seeing it come to fruition will likely be one of the highlights of 2022.

In closing, I want to say how proud we are to serve the communitie­s of northwest Georgia. I wish you happy holidays, and a happy and healthy New Year.

 ?? ?? Dallas

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