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DeKalb to distribute 10,000 COVID-19 care kits with masks, sanitizer

May 9, 2020 Decatur - DeKalb County police and fire cadets passed out COVID-19 care kits containing two non-surgical masks and hand sanitizer to residents to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Big Lots parking lot at 2738 Candler Road in Decatur on Saturday, May 9, 2020. DeKalb County Board of Health is supporting this initiative. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJCLOCAL NEWS| 9 hours agoBy Tyler Estep, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DeKalb County will distribute 10,000 COVID-19 “care kits” this week, giving masks and hand sanitizer to residents in areas hit hard by the pandemic.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a stern warning encouraging citizens to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the Thanksgiving holiday,” DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said in a news release. “The DeKalb County Government and the Board of Health are redoubling our ongoing efforts to educate and protect our residents.”ExploreEight months in for a COVID-19 doctor: ‘Sadness, regret, betrayal’

Each kit will include two non-surgical masks, hand sanitizer and a card with tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, officials said. The county has distributed a total of 80,000 such kits since the pandemic hit in March.

The latest distribution was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Wednesday and will be held at the DeKalb County Police Department’s South Precinct, located at 2842 H.F. Shepherd Drive in Decatur.

Across Georgia, more than 400,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 8,600 Georgians have died.

As of Monday, DeKalb County has had the fourth-most confirmed cases of the virus in the state. Deaths reported in the county had reached 430.

“We are in the middle of a health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in a century,” DeKalb County health director Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford said. “Working together and following the advice and guidance of health experts will mitigate the effects and consequences of this nefarious disease.”

Residents experiencing headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, loss of sense of smell or taste, or sore throat, or who think they might have been exposed to COVID-19 are urged to call 404-294-3700, Option 1, to be scheduled for a test for COVID-19.

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State still sending mentally ill people to homeless shelters

By ALAN JUDD The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 3 hrs ago
http://www.mdjonline.com/neighbor_newspapers/news/state/state-still-sending-mentally-ill-people-to-homeless-shelters/article_b4537c5d-8212-5a63-bc39-e2766efb57c0.html#tncms-source=infinity-scroll-summary-siderail-latest

ATLANTA (AP) — Mentally ill patients often left Georgia’s state psychiatric hospitals with just a bus token and directions to a homeless shelter.

For people with disabilities, these same institutions became places of permanent confinement.

This is the system that Georgia, under pressure from the federal government, pledged seven years ago to radically overhaul. But with a court-enforced deadline fast approaching, the state increasingly seems unlikely to fulfill its promises.

Georgia has less than 14 months – until June 30, 2018 – to comply with a settlement it reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010. The agreement followed an investigation that concluded the state had systematically violated the rights of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

But the state continues to discharge patients with mental illness to places where they are unlikely to get psychiatric treatment: extended-stay motels, for instance, and even the massive Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter in midtown Atlanta. All patients with disabilities are supposed to be moved into group homes or other community-based facilities, but at the current rate of progress, the state might not meet that requirement for another 10 years.

As officials try to comply with the agreement, they also are investigating an alarming number of deaths in community-based treatment: about 350 since 2014. Those apparently include five dozen suicides.

A court-appointed monitor credits the state with making many promised improvements, especially regarding crisis intervention and other services for people with mental illness.

Still, a grim picture emerges from the monitor’s most recent report, as well as from interviews and documents reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It is “absolutely essential” that the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability “act with urgency to meet its obligations,” the monitor, Elizabeth Jones, wrote in late March in a report to U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell. “Although there has been noteworthy progress in certain discrete areas of implementation, the reform efforts require additional diligent and effective actions if compliance is to be achieved within the anticipated timeframe.”

Department officials declined to be interviewed.

In a statement, the agency did not say whether it expects to meet the deadlines next year. But the department said it is moving at “a reasonable pace” to move. “Transitions are carefully and individually planned to meet the unique needs and preferences of each individual and to provide the best opportunities for success in the community.”

The agency said it welcomed the monitor’s “reflections and recommendations.”
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The Justice Department began investigating Georgia’s psychiatric hospitals in 2007 after a Journal-Constitution series, “A Hidden Shame,” exposed a pattern of poor medical care, abuse, neglect and bad management that had caused dozens of unnecessary deaths.

Transforming a historically troubled mental health system has been a slower process than perhaps anyone envisioned when state and federal authorities put together a plan. Already, a judge extended the deadline for compliance once, from 2015 to 2018.

The state has spent millions of dollars and reorganized the bureaucracy that oversees the hospitals and community treatment. It also closed two state hospitals, in Rome and Thomasville. All that’s left of Central State Hospital, the notorious facility in Milledgeville that once warehoused as many as 12,000 people, is a unit for people committed through the criminal justice system.

In past years, the state hospitals, especially Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta, sent scores of newly discharged patients to locations where continued treatment seemed unlikely: homeless shelters, street corners, even an abandoned van on a street in Atlanta’s West End.

But from 2016 to 2017, according to the monitor’s report, the hospitals cut discharges to homeless shelters by half. At the same time, however, the number of patients placed in extended-stay motels quadrupled.

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