July 23, 2001
FOCUS helps mentally ill lead productive lives
Grady Hospitals FOCUS Intensive Outpatient Program is one of the
few mental health programs in Atlanta designed for low-income people in
crisis, individuals diagnosed with both mental health and substance abuse
problems, and those being released from jail or inpatient mental health
Started in 1999, the program is designed specifically to prevent psychiatric
hospitalization. With millions of Americans suffering from mental illness
each year, the program fills a huge void. While it can sometimes take
up to six weeks to receive an appointment at an outpatient mental health
clinic, it takes just two to three days to be seen in the FOCUS program.
An added (and rare) feature of the program is that it welcomes patients
who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. Funded through Grady
Health System and a grant from the Fulton County Mental Health, Mental
Retardation and Substance Abuse Regional Board, FOCUS is able to accept
patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Leanne Raison, a School of Medicine psychiatrist and director of the
FOCUS program, said the program is providing high-level service.
It fills a gap that exists in the system for people who are in
crisis and for those who are dually diagnosed, she said. It
is a positive, cost-effective alternative that has produced outstanding
clinical results. This program is a gema resource, however, that
is not being fully utilized.
The program, which is housed in Haverty Hall at 206 Edgewood Ave. in
downtown Atlanta, accepts up to 25 patients for its intensive group therapy
sessions. Admission is based on several criteria: Patients must be residents
of Fulton or DeKalb counties; in crisis; at least 18 years of age; have
a desire to get off drugs; and be on time for therapy. The program lasts
three to six weeks.
While in the program, all members learn stress management, coping and
social skills, and family and group psychotherapy. Members who are substance
abusers also attend meetings to learn about relapse prevention, the impact
of drugs on mental and physical health, and how to have fun without using
The program has been particularly successful in improving patient services
and preventing hospitalizations, since patients are less likely to relapse
because of the strong group support.
To learn more about FOCUS, call 404-233-1809.