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Funding Down for Local Mental Health Services | Health

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Funding Down for Local Mental Health Services
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A few years ago, Lamonte Havis from Macon lived on the streets, while his mind lived somewhere else.

He says, "I was thinking and constantly living every day thinking about going somewhere and being a millionaire or something, and had more than millions, and a mansion waiting for me or something like that."

Now, Harvis says he has something he can't put a price on: Help.

He's one of 75 Bibb County patients served by River Edge's Assertive Community Treatment team, which is funded by the state. It's a group of medical professionals who provide home care to the mentally ill.

There are 22 ACT teams throughout the state. For each team, it costs $700,000 a year to serve patients. That includes staff salaries and everything else, but River Edge Director Shannon Harvey says they still need more.

She says, "Georgia ranks, depending on which study you read, 46th or 47th in funding for mental health services, but we rank 9th in population. So, though we served thousands upon thousands of people last year, there are thousands and thousands more who need services who struggle to get them because resources are limited."

Even though there's less money, the mission every day is still the same, but Harvey says they could visit even more patients if they just had the financial backing.

It's not just the ACT Program feeling the crunch.

In 2011, the state cut all funding for the central Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which set them back over $150,000 a year.

"So, we've been struggling to offer all the services we've been offering," says Director Jeane Bauer.

They rely heavily on donations, like the $300,000 given by someone in Warner Robins to build a 12-person group home. They will also have a room for things like life-skill classes.

Bauer says it's a big help for her organization, but just a small step to treating the thousands of central Georgians like Havis.

Bauer hopes to open the new group home by the end of the month. She says she's also been working with local legislators to get back some of her state funding.

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