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Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 12:27pm

Judge Extends Mental Health Deadline

Georgia is getting more time to report on efforts to improve mental health care.

This week a federal judge put off a court-ordered review of a massive overhaul for one year.

Two years ago, the state agreed to sweeping improvements after investigations found cases of abuse and neglect in state mental hospitals.

Georgia has three more years to make changes.

Tom Wilson of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities says, the judge's ruling doesn't change that deadline.

"There's just a delay in the one specific requirement that we had which was to produce a quality management report," Wilson says.

Patient advocate Ellyn Jeager of Mental Health America says, the one year reporting delay is warranted.

"I thought the judge was very reasonable and made a lot of sense in terms of giving the department an opportunity to make things right," Jeager says.

Jeager says, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is improving under new Commissioner Frank Barry.

"I think Commissioner Shelp, the Commissioner who was here right before Commissioner Barry, really started to do some very good work," Jeager says. "I think Commissioner Barry will take it to the next step. So, I'm not feeling down about it because what I see is leadership."

State officials say, they need more time to improve teams of case workers who deal with the challenging circumstances of the seriously mentally ill.

The judge left in place a 2015 deadline for all the improvements to be complete.

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