Dr. Frank Shelp, (pictured below) Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development stepped down last month after three years overseeing a department overhaul. The new commissioner is Frank Berry, former CEO of View Point Health in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Shelp oversaw the overhaul of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville as well as the closing of other state mental health hospitals during his tenure. He was largely responsible for negotiating with the US Justice Department (“DOJ”) in 2009 regarding a settlement of civil rights claims related to the treatment of Georgia’s mental health patients in state facilities. The DOJ intervention came about largely due to a series of scathing articles in 2007 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution exposing 100 suspicious deaths of patients in Georgia mental hospitals over a five-year period. Incidents of neglect and abuse shocked the community.
The DOJ intervention arose under the authority of a 1999 ruling of the US Supreme Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act that required all states to move individuals with mental illnesses out of ailing state hospitals and into community care settings.