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Helping patients reintegrate into society
Walkers Bend project to house some behavioral health patients
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At least part of a planned development in the Walker's Bend subdivision, off Ga. Highway 81, will be dedicated to people with behavioral health and developmental disabilities who are trying to reintegrate into the community.

View Point Health, a state-created agency for behavioral health and developmental disabilities, will be the owner of the Clover Bridge Village housing unit in Walker's Bend.

Clover Bridge Village will be a two-story facility with approximately 30 single units and several double units for VPH patients who need to transition to stable housing as they reintegrate into the community.

Plans to break ground on the project are tentatively scheduled for October with a completion date of nine to 12 months. VPH currently has $3.9 million on reserve for the project.

The housing unit is a part of Covington's Walker's Bend redevelopment plan, which is seeking to turn around a declining subdivision located less than one mile from the town square.

The project was originally designed to be a partnership between the city of Covington and Covington Housing Authority. VPH was brought on as a service provider partner, but was later requested by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to be the owner of the housing unit, according to VPH Chief Financial Officer David Crews.

The building will actually be owned by a single-asset entity created by VPH-formed nonprofit, Behavioral Health of Georgia.

Crews said the Department of Community Affairs Permanent Supportive Housing Program legally required both properties to be held in individual entities so that each maintained the income generated through the housing programs.

VPH is one of 25 agencies in the state created to provide services for mental health, addiction recovery and developmental disabilities.

VPH, formerly known as the Gwinnett, Rockdale, Newton Community Service Board, also continues to expand its services in Rockdale County, including starting a new teen health program and purchasing properties in Conyers.

All of these projects come at a time when View Point Health is evaluating its budget for fiscal year 2013. As with most other state and federally funded programs, the agency expects to see some of its funding cut in the upcoming fiscal year due to tight state and federal budgets.

Currently, VPH is sitting on a little over $26.5 million in revenues for year-to-date activity.

Last year, the organization gave up its contract to manage Gwinnett County transportation services for its patients as well as senior citizens in the county.

Eliminating that contract saw VPH's funds decrease by about $1.6 million. However, they made it up through upticks in Medicaid, Veteran's Administration, Medicare and insurance.

Yet with a loss in program expenses from subcontracts at around $1.2 million, VPH increased its net revenues by $1.7 million as of March 31, and expects its funding balance to go up.

Right now, they are waiting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court vote on the healthcare reform law will pan out in order to prepare for future client needs.

"There is a lot of uncertainty as to what is going on in Washington," said Crews.

Crews said that the healthcare reform law would potentially create a new group of insured patients different from the previous Medicaid patients that VPH normally serves.

The change would bring various payment sources for care, which the group must consider when serving their clients.
Budget issues aside, VPH is confident that it will satisfy the needs of its clients. Their ultimate goal is to see VPH patients fully integrated and serving in their communities.

Plans to partner with corporations have been in the works. VPH has a formal partnership with the Department of Labor to find jobs for its transitioning clients. However, The Labor Department contract only allots funding to find jobs for just 20 people, which far exceeds VPH's numbers.

"We need to educate corporations on these people who re-enter the workforce and get them to understand they will not harm the workplace," said Richard Oden, Rockdale County Commission Chair and VPH board member.

CEO Frank Berry does hope to continue the organization's ultimate goal of seeing his clients live, work and serve in their communities.

"We hope to see our clients live in their own homes, sleep in their own beds and contribute to their community."