“We invited the governor over to show him what KidsPeace does in treating children referred by various state agencies and to address a number of concerns we have,” said Mike Steed, a member of the KidsPeace Georgia Board of Associates. “The level of funding from the state has been cut back and we’re trying to make the case for restoring some of it, not only for KidsPeace, but for providers of similar services in the state.”
KidsPeace is a nonprofit, national children’s charity that provides residential treatment services for children with behavioral and emotional problems, or who have suffered severe abuse, neglect or deprivation.
The Bowdon campus, established in 2004, currently has about 40 boys and 20 girls, ages 12-18, suffering from mental health or behavioral disorders. Referrals come from the Department of Family and Children Services and Department of Juvenile Justice.
The governor and first lady toured the facility and talked with both residents and staff. They also met with the organization’s local board members and local officials, including state Rep. Randy Nix, District 6 Carroll County Commissioner George Chambers and Bowdon Mayor Keith Crawford.
“I assure you that I understand the importance of what you do,” Deal told a staff gathering. “As a parent of four children and a former Juvenile Court judge, I understand the importance of alternate placements through the legal system. Obviously, you’re making great progress here.”
Deal emphasized that resources have been tight all over the state and these are “tough economic times” for everyone and the state as a whole.
“Hopefully, that will change,” he said. “I wish we had more communities like yours and I thank you for what you do and the time you’ve given us today.”
Staff members presented information to the governor that showed the Bowdon facility has run at full capacity, but has suffered losses every year of operation due to inadequate reimbursement. They noted that 15 staff positions have been cut, saving $475,000 annually, but KidsPeace is unable to further reduce the staff without compromising the safety of the youth.
KidsPeace has requested rate increases from the Department of Human Services and Department of Juvenile Justice to partially compensate for operational shortfalls. Both requests were denied due to poor economic conditions and budget restraints in both departments. KidsPeace has been working with the Georgia Legislature to address the shortfall.
The facility operates with an annual budget of $6.2 million and an annual payroll of $1.3 million. It purchases $380,000 each year from local businesses. It has served 501 young people since opening in 2004, with placements from 38 counties.
KidsPeace Georgia was recognized by the Department of Human Services in 2010 for having the shortest average length of stay, at 10.5 months, compared to other facilities that work with youth who need “maximum watchful oversight” services.
Steed said he viewed Thursday’s visit as a “successful exchange of information.”
The governor also visited Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton Thursday, taking a tour of the hospital’s new Surgical Services unit, which recently opened following more than two years of construction, as well as the new Clinic Avenue atrium that will open at the end of November. The Deals visited a patient who just had knee replacement surgery in the hospital.
On hand to greet the governor and his wife were Tanner Health System President and CEO Loy M. Howard, Tanner Board of Directors Member Steve Adams, Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner, Dr. Tom Fitzgerald, medical director of the hospital’s emergency department, and senior members of Tanner’s administrative team. Surgical Services Nurse Manager Lisa Parmer led the tour through the new unit.
“We were honored to have Gov. and Mrs. Deal as our guests at Tanner and take them on a tour of the new Surgical Services expansion at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton,” said Howard. “The governor appreciates the importance of our mission to improve and expand our services as we continue to care for the communities we serve.”
With the expansion, the hospital’s surgical services unit has grown from six to 10 operating suites, including a new hybrid operating suite that doubles as a catheterization lab to provide the latest vascular procedures. The short stay unit at the hospital also has expanded from 16 to 23 rooms, providing greater access to the same-day surgical procedures that account for up to 90 percent of all surgical cases at Tanner.
Fitzgerald described the hospital’s new 32,000 square feet, 40-bed emergency department, but couldn’t take the governor on a tour. The new emergency department is being renovated following a failure in a fire suppression line on Aug. 23 that flooded the new department. It is expected to be unveiled to the public in an open house in early 2013.
Following their tour of the Surgical Services unit, Deal and his wife stopped by the Tanner Ortho and Spine Center, named No. 1 in Georgia by HealthGrades for the fourth consecutive year. The couple visited Bowdon resident Dot Wigginton, who just had knee replacement surgery. Her son, Trooper Chris Wigginton, is in charge of the governor’s security detail.