Emory Report

 November 10, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 12

Emory considering possibilities if state closes mental health institute

The Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) has proposed to Governor Zell Miller that the state close the Georgia Mental Health Institute (GMHI) on Briarcliff Road. According to DHR, the 141-bed, state-operated psychiatric hospital and the other buildings that make up the 42-acre facility less than a mile from the Emory campus are simply too costly to operate.

DHR believes it can serve the same people at other hospitals and outpatient centers and could redirect half of the facility's $24.5 million budget to expand community mental health services in several regions, including DeKalb and Fulton counties, and to improve substance-abuse treatment services. The governor will consider this proposal as part of his year-end budget plan, and his decision then will be reviewed by the Georgia General Assembly.

Emory has a longstanding interest in GMHI. The University and the state co-developed the facility more than 30 years ago around the common objective of improving the mental health of Georgians. Since GMHI opened in 1965, Emory physicians have provided some mental health services at the facility, and some residents and fellows have received part of their training in psychiatry there. Emory also has its own pediatric psychiatric outpatient programs based at GMHI.

In addition, Emory currently has 10 faculty scientists conducting 18 research studies at GMHI, all focused on mental health and diseases of the brain and central nervous system and many are funded by state grants. Recognizing this history and current activity, the DHR informed Emory early on about its desire to close the facility.

Emory administrators are now looking at some interesting possibilities. After the DHR decided to propose closing the facility, the state asked if Emory might be interested in creating a proposal for new uses for the complex should its closing be approved.

Rarely does a parcel of land this large and this close to Emory become available, so a team of University and health sciences administrators and the president of Wesley Woods are carefully weighing options for immediate and future uses of the land and facilities.

The overriding criteria in converting the facility are that new programs are consistent with the state's desire to have the facility used for the common good of Georgians and that they fulfill the original idea of the Georgia-Emory partnership. While it is much too early to provide concrete information on what is being discussed, it's fair to say that research weighs heavily as do new and continuing collaborative ventures with the state.

The governor is not expected to make a decision about the DHR proposal until year-end, and any proposal submitted by Emory also would be subject to approval by the state.

-Sylvia Wrobel

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