What resources are there to fill Augusta mental health needs?

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A lack of mental health resources in Augusta is an issue we’ve covered for years.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve responded to more than 1,400 calls involving mental episodes or suicide from January through June 2022.

That puts us on pace to pass last year’s total of nearly 2,700 calls.

With an uptick, we wanted to know if there’s also an uptick in the focus on mental health resources in our area.

The issue is supply and demand. There are a number of different resources. It’s just what’s actually available.

Augusta’s newest and central resource, the HUB, which we reported back in January, ‘Thrive’ is still in the process of developing a mental health program.

“Sometimes for people to really engage, they need to see representation,” said Natalie Bryan, social worker, owner of Restoring Harmony Counseling and Consulting.

Bryan is putting on her own wellness weekend on July 16 with more than 20 other organizations at the Augusta Library.

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s all the more important to show what’s available to those who feel unseen.

“If we can kind of try to level the playing field for people to feel like they are getting some relief or reprieve or know what happens next. It helps to reduce that anxiety,” she said.

It’s the same push that Augusta University emphasizes. They have a number of free single, family, LGBTQ+, and Clinica Latina programs.

Staffing and insurance troubles can push back available appointments by months.

Dr. Dale Peeples, child psychiatrist, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University said: “A lot of families who come to an emergency department in Augusta find that they end up going to Atlanta or Savannah because there aren’t enough local beds here.”

Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has worked with commissioners in the past six months to bring back help from social workers to handle what’s projected to be nearly 3,000 mental health calls in 2022.

Bryan said: “I think the more interconnected we are, the more we can support people as they are transitioning. Because some people can’t afford mental health care.”

Talking with Chief Patrick Clayton, the number of mental health calls isn’t the full picture. Some of these calls can take up to an hour to thoroughly respond to. This hits harder during peak hours at night and on weekends when they have less staff.

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