Chatuge Regional Hospital Receives Grant for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

Elizabeth McKeon

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County and Hiawassee City Officials convened with citizens on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, for a community stakeholders meeting to learn the fundamentals of a $250,000 grant received by Chatuge Regional Hospital from the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee. The grant was awarded to assist with the treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues in the area.

Grant Director and Psychiatric Registered Nurse Elizabeth McKeon presented a slideshow revealing what the grant entails. The program is intended to stabilize individuals in need of treatment, offer group therapy led by professionals, and provide one-on-one care on an as needed basis. The goal is to produce a safer community and reduce non-emergent 911 calls and emergency room visits while addressing the needs of those suffering from mental illness and addiction in the community.

“We’re in a nationwide crisis right now, ” Elizabeth McKeon said. “All mental illness is an illness, not a choice.”

According to McKeon, one in five adults suffer from a mental illness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and General Anxiety Disorder rates are twice the national average in the state of Georgia. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with an average of 121 people dying each day.

Dr. Shelly McIntyre, a physician at Chatuge Regional Hospital, says substance abuse statistics have risen considerably. “It’s worse than a few years ago,” McIntyre said, referencing opioids and Xanax. “The use by the elderly and younger kids is horrible.”

Ryan Snow, an administrator at Chatuge Regional Hospital, says he hopes this is the first of many conversations with the community. “We will talk to any organization, church, etc. We would love to come tell about it,” Snow offered.

Also of note is the expansion of a Telemedicine program designed to allow school children immediate access to physician care. “It is tasked to keep students in school and lower absentee rates,” Lewis Kelley, CEO of Union General and Chatuge Regional Hospital, explained. “I feel like this is where medicine is going in the future. We need to look at alternatives to meet medical needs.”

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology in order to provide clinical health care from a distance.

Official attendees of the presentation included Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Towns County Fire Chief and Coroner Harold Copeland, EMA Director Rickey Mathis, Hiawassee Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales and Towns County Sheriff’s Deputy John McCoy.

Commissioner Bradshaw invited Chatuge Regional Administrator Ryan Snow to readdress the public at the Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.


Featured Image: Grant Director and Registered Psychiatric Nurse Elizabeth McKeon


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