By Nick Nunn staff writer
Oliver Booker, CEO of Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, approached the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) about performing a community needs assessment for mental health service in Morgan County. Booker said that he would like to have the formal support of the BOC before beginning the project, in order to receive as much assistance in the county as possible. BOC Chair Andrew Ainslie said that the board would look at issuing a formal endorsement during their upcoming May 6 meeting. Booker said that the assessment would last approximately six months and would primarily “assess [the] level of service” that Morgan County receives to determine if in-county service is warrented.
Booker stated that Morgan County residents currently have to go out of the county to be served by Advantage Behavioral, with most traveling to either Walton County or Greene County for access. County Manager Michael Lamar stated that the county currently provides Morgan County residents with transportation to the Greene County facility for access. According to Booker, the Morgan County Advantage Behavioral office was closed in 2006, but he says that it is “time to take another look” at providing in-county service for Morgan County. Advantage Behavioral services 10 counties in the area, including Morgan, Oconee, Walton, Greene, Clarke, and Elbert Counties.
Booker said that approximately 11,000 clients were served last year, and that Morgan County residents made up 261. Booker said that the average age of Morgan County clients is 43 and that the majority of Morgan County clients receive care for depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Booker stated that he has been the CEO of Advantage Behavioral Health Systems for the past couple of years and that he considers Advantage Behavioral to be a “marvelous organization.” He said that the Advantage Behavioral is a “quasi-governmental entity” which receives approximately half of its budget from federal and state funding sources. “We do a lot with the money we get,” said Booker. Commissioner Phillip Clack asked Booker how a Morgan County facility would be funded. Booker said that Advantage Behavioral’s agreement with each county is different and that funding would have to be worked out in detail with the county. “We try to do the best we can with the situation we have,” said Booker.