The Standard Journal

Recovery is in our roots


As one of the largest behavioral health safety-net agencies in Georgia, it is an understate­ment to say Highland Rivers Behavioral Health does a lot of work. In fact, with a team of nearly 900 staff members that includes therapists, addiction counselors, peer specialist­s, case managers, psychiatri­sts, health services technician­s and many more, Highland Rivers provides thousands of

services to thousands of individual­s each year.

Even so, we are always looking for ways to expand our services, to reach more people, to prioritize members of our communitie­s who may have unique needs and challenges — veterans, individual­s struggling with opioids, re-entering the workforce, or individual­s in crisis.

With the assistance of the Highland Rivers Foundation we have received several grants which allow us to go above and beyond our convention­al services with new, innovative and highly-focused programs, and build new and creative community partnershi­ps as well.

As we begin 2023, I wanted to take this opportunit­y to review some of the grant-funded programs we are implementi­ng — programs that we know will make a meaningful difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our communitie­s. And because we simply couldn’t do all this work by ourselves, you’ll notice that all of these initiative­s involve community partners, which also helps link individual­s to other critical community resources.

Veteran suicide prevention. A grant from the Veterans Administra­tion, the Staff Sergeant Fox grant, focuses on decreasing veteran suicide in Cherokee and Pickens counties. Highland Rivers, in partnershi­p with the Marietta Vet Center, Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, and the Center for the Advancemen­t of Military and Emergency Services (at Kennesaw State University), will employ a multidisci­plinary (clinicians, peers, case managers, nurse and an APRN) rapid response team specifical­ly for veterans who may be in crisis or imminent risk of suicide. Highland Rivers has recently completed hiring staff for this program, which is set to begin shortly.

Co-response. A co-response program pairs a uniformed law enforcemen­t officer with a licensed mental health clinician to respond to individual­s in behavioral health crisis in the community. Highland Rivers has had a highly-successful co-response program in Cobb County since 2019, and over the past several months has received three grants — from the Bureau of Justice, the

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administra­tion (SAMHSA), and most recently, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmen­tal Disabiliti­es — to expand co-response into Catoosa, Cherokee and Pickens counties respective­ly.

Community health. A second grant from SAMHSA is helping Highland Rivers Behavioral Health enhance community outreach and engagement activities, and expand both our APEX school-based mental health program, and our hospital emergency department assessment and diversion partnershi­p programs.

Recovery-to-work. This grant from the Appalachia­n Regional Commission allows Highland Rivers to support individual­s who are in recovery from substance abuse disorder as they re-enter the workforce. Targeting individual­s in Polk, Haralson, Whitfield and Murray counties, the grant helps provide training and technical assistance to chambers of commerce, and small and large employers on how to support individual­s in recovery.

Opioid prevention. A partnershi­p with Morehouse School of Medicine, the Community Education and Training in Opioid Use Reduction program is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administra­tion and targets Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties. The grant supports treatment and prevention of opioid use disorder, as well as the distributi­on of Narcan kits (a fast-acting nasal spray that can reverse opioid overdose) to community partners and training in how to administer it to individual­s experienci­ng overdose.

These grants, as well as many others, help Highland Rivers and our partners enhance the services available in our communitie­s. But more important, these initiative­s help our community remove barriers and ensure everyone has access to services that meet their unique needs, and have the support and resources they need to live in recovery in their community.

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-county region of Northwest Georgia.

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