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Reporter shares what triggered series on gaps in Georgia's mental health care system, shares how you can help

11Alive has compiled a list of resources that can help families.

ATLANTA — In 2019, an Atlanta woman left her child at Grady hospital in downtown Atlanta. Diana Elliott said then that she’d been overwhelmed, trying to care for her 14-year-old who has special needs and her other children.

She left him, for the moment, somewhere she thought he would be safe with a note for police — which 11Alive later discovered officers never found.

Diana Elliott's story inspired an 11Alive series called #Keeping, exposing the gaps in Georgia's mental health care system that cause thousands of children to be surrendered to state custody.

11Alive has compiled a list of resources that can help families.

There are also ways the community can help. A great way to help is to stay up to date with related legislation and being sure to let lawmakers know what you think. You can also assist by volunteering. 

Below is a list of organizations that can help families -- some are also in need of volunteers. If you know of more, let us know by sending an email. We'll add them to our list.


NAMI-Georgia — Leaders with this organization said they need volunteers to help answer phone lines coordinate programs like support groups, and assist with special projects. You an also sign up to receive newsletters from NAMI. 

The organization is known for helping families whose lives have been affected by mental illness. They offer a Non-crisis HelpLine to provide information on NAMI programs, community services, education, support groups, and peer support for persons with mental illnesses and their family members in Georgia. Helpline is operated Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 770-408-0625. 

Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta — You can volunteer to help, but you can also donate online. The organization said support goes directly to fund programs and services helping individuals with down syndrome, and their families, from birth through adulthood.

The organization connects families and self-advocates to the partners, programs, education and resources they need to thrive.

Georgia Advocacy Office — The GAO's main role is to investigates abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations as related to people with disabilities. GAO can assist families in navigating service systems, such as Medicaid, so children and adults with disabilities understand their rights and learn how to access to home and community-based services. The GAO can assist people with disabilities to understand their rights to live in the community, work, and vote.

Children’s Freedom Initiative — This group works to ensure children and youth with disabilities remain in loving, permanent homes rather than other settings, such as a nursing home. They also work to educate families, professionals, and lawmakers on a child's federal rights to services under the Medicaid Act/EPSDT.

Atlanta Legal Aid Disability Integration Unit — Atlanta Legal Aid’s Disability Integration Project assists low-income children and adults with significant disabilities in the metro Atlanta area who face obstacles obtaining community-based disability services. They advocate for people to receive appropriate Medicaid-funded services so they can live in their own homes and communities instead of in institutions. Due to limited resources, the group cannot help everyone who seeks  help. They do not handle criminal matters. To apply for services, call: 404-377-0707. 

FOCUS (Families of Children Under Stress) — FOCUS has respite services for children under 12 in select cities, summer day camp programs and family activities for children with disabilities. There number is 770-234-9111.

Georgia Apex Program —  This is a school-based mental health program funded by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. According to its website, the program strives to build capacity and increase access to mental health services for school-aged youth.

Youth Mental Health Resiliency Support Clubhouses — This group has youth-guided, family-driven interventions that provide creative and non-traditional techniques to build skills, tap into and nurture leadership qualities, and create relations and support systems among peers. The goal is to improve outcomes for youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions in collaboration with families, mental health providers, and the community. CHRIS 180 is at The SPOT clubhouse, which is located at 1976 Flat Shoals Road in Atlanta. 

Parent to Parent of GA — This group connects parents with other families skilled in navigating educational issues. They also help families avoid the isolation often experienced when raising a child with support needs.

Georgia Parent Support Network — This is a group dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy for children and youth with mental illness, emotional disturbances, and behavioral differences and their families, according to its website.

Georgia Federation of Families — According to the Georgia Parent Support Network, the Georgia Federation of Families is a national family-run organization focused on the issues of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs and their families.

Georgia Youth MOVE — This is a program for youth and young adults to build empathy and self-advocacy.

FAVOR (Families Advocated for Voices of Resilience) —  Its website said the chapter serves as a national voice and an advocate for children’s mental health.  

Integrated Concepts for Families — A parent-directed organization with a mission to improve the well-being of children and families by providing a variety of counseling and treatment services.

Georgia Crisis & Access Line — Call 1-800-715-4225 to help you or someone you care for in a crisis. The GCAL is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

DBHDD Find a provider — Use this database to find mental healthcare providers in your network.

Call these numbers for any questions about the benefits or services offered through my Medicaid Care Management Organization (CMO):

  • Amerigroup at 1-800-600-4441 (TTY 711) or on its website
  • CareSource: 1-855-202-0729 (TTY 1-800-255-0056) or on its website
  • Peach State: 1-800-704-1484 (TTY 1-800-255-0056) or online here
  • You can also find contacts on the Department of Community Health website

Other ways to help

Every day, there's something you can do to help children who need support for mental health and their families:

  • Speak up. You can report violations of mental health parity.
  • Help a neighbor, and not just the one next door. These children require constant supervision. Simple household tasks like repairing and painting a damaged wall seem impossible. So do it for them. Find a way to take a task off their hands every once in a while. If you feel comfortable and it is safe, see if you can help watch the child a few hours to provide the parent a break.
  • Become a therapeutic foster parent. If there aren’t loving, well-trained parents to help provide temporary shelter for these children and work with the families to get them on track, even funding won’t help.

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