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Two Athens health facilities cater to mentally disabled

Two Athens-area facilities offer many options for locals with mental health disorders.

Athens is home to two mental health facilities — Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services and the Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, a state mental hospital, that offers care for people with mental health disorders, said Earl Cecil, executive director of the 317 Board, a community based system providing treatment for addictions and mental health services.

“Opportunities (in Athens) are fairly robust for a rural county,” Cecil said.

The Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services is a comprehensive community health service that provides diagnostic assessment, case management and support services for the mentally ill, said Terry Hayes, chief clinical officer for the service.

Counseling services are provided for a variety of ailments, although they are trauma focused, she said.

“Probably at least 60 percent of the cases we see are pretty severe,” Hayes said, adding that problems are classified as severe when they interfere with everyday life, including work or school function and family dynamics.

The service is an outpatient care facility, although they do have a crisis stabilization unit for short-term treatment, Hayes said.

Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare is a state hospital providing services to chronic patients. The hospital treats common disorders including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, personality disorders and severe depression, said Jane Krason, chief executive officer of the hospital.

The hospital, which has 88 beds that are generally filled to capacity, treats both civil and forensic patients, she said, adding that civil patients come to the hospital through community mental health screening processes, while forensic patients are involved through the court system.

Seven days is a patient’s average stay at the facility, Krason said.

The hospital provides many options for treatment that go beyond medication, she said, adding that treatment options include group and individual therapy, meetings with psychiatrists and social workers, as well as non-traditional therapies such as art, music and activity therapy.

Special programs for those with drug or alcohol related problems also are offered, she said.

“The biggest challenge (to mental health care in the area) is a funding issue,” Cecil said, adding that because of state budget cuts, it is difficult to assist individuals who don’t have a means of paying for their services.

“We know we are underserving (the community), but we do not have a good count as to how many,” he said.

There are many problems that can occur if individuals in need do not get treatment, Cecil said, adding that untreated mental health conditions can significantly affect one’s personal life, including the ability to hold a job and maintain personal relationships.

If individuals go untreated, they can deteriorate to become a danger to themselves or others, Cecil said.

“Anyone in crisis is getting services regardless if they have the means to pay for them,” he said.

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