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Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 10:58am

Savannah Gets $4M Mental Health Grant

A new community program in Southeast Georgia will give about 100 seriously mentally ill adults some extra help thanks to a $4 million grant.

The grant from the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation will fund a pilot program testing so-called "community navigators."

Kristie Swink of the Georgia Department of Behavorial Health and Developmental Disabilities says, navigators are peers, like parents are friends, who join professionals in helping the mentally ill.

"They'll be following them, mentoring them and looking at them over the two year period," Swink says. "These are obviously people that have worked with the participants in some capacity that definitely know their situations and will be administering some type of support or care for them."

The goal is to keep the seriously mentally ill out of jail, hospitals and homeless shelters.

The private funds will prop up a much-criticized state system now under court order to improve.

GDBHDD was the only state agency this year to get a budget increase