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Bridge Health: Treatment Options For Dade Countians Without Insurance

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Located in Gross Shopping Center between Hidden Treasures and SACs Thrift Avenue, Bridge Health treats under/uninsured north Georgians with mental illness needs intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance addictions.

By LYDIA BERGLAR
News Editor

Bridge Health approached the Dade County Board of Commissioners at the January commission meeting to provide information about Bridge Health and to make a funding request for one of the organization’s programs. The commission did not reach a decision at that time, but the discussion shed light on Bridge Health’s work in the county.

While primarily funded by the state, Bridge Health also requests support from counties and started a 501(c)(3) branch (called The Cares Foundation) last year so that the group can collect private donations and apply for grants.

Bridge Health has been providing treatment for mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), and addictive diseases in Catoosa, Chattooga, Walker, and Dade Counties since 1965. The Trenton location has been open for over 40 years. As a Community Service Board (CSB), it serves uninsured and underinsured residents but (unable to accept insurance) also has a private pay option for insured patients.

Bridge Health became a CSB when the Georgia General Assembly added CSBs to the state code in 1994. Reporting that there are 22 CSBs throughout the state, the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards describes CSBs as “public agencies created to provide treatment and care for individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual/developmental disabilities. CSBs serve Georgians who may not be able to get treatment from private providers – people with limited income, or who are uninsured, underinsured, or have Medicaid or Medicare.”

Previously called Lookout Mountain Community Services, Bridge Health rebranded in July 2022, keeping the same services but updating the name and logo for conciseness, accuracy, and marketing purposes. Not being located on Lookout Mountain (even though it serves that area) was one reason, and the team wanted the fresh logo to be easily recognizable.

Kerby Reed (marketing and public relations specialist) said that “bridge” was chosen because, “We’re about meeting people where they’re at and bridging the gaps for people who have a need for these services. In Dade County, 17.1 percent of people are uninsured. That’s higher than the state average, which is 14.7 percent.”

Reed reported that about ten employees work in the Trenton office, including four nurses and three licensed counselors. Also, four doctors provide telehealth services. Bridge Health clinics have pharmacies on site through which they can provide medication.

The Trenton clinic (located at 12580 North Main Street between Hidden Treasures and SACs Thrift Avenue) served 877 individuals (675 adults and 202 children) in 2023. Of the adults treated last year, 559 were helped with mental health and 116 were helped with addictive diseases. All of the children were treated for mental health needs.

Children treated includes all who were seen through Apex, the program that Bridge Health specifically brought before the county commission. Through Apex, students in Dade County Schools are treated at school, eliminating transportation barriers. Reed said that 95 percent of Dade County is considered rural and therefore transportation can be a barrier, but through Apex, “We can meet students exactly where they’re at–school.”

She explained that CSBs focus on mental illness, IDDs, and addictive diseases because there is some overlap between these categories: Substance abuse and mental health often go hand in hand, and intellectual disabilities sometimes overlap with mental illness.

To treat mental illness and addictions, Bridge Health has counselors available for one-on-one, family, and group counseling. Reed noted that counseling is also offered to those in support roles. For example, even if a child was not in counseling, the parents could still find support through Bridge Health.

For adults with IDDs, Bridge Health runs day programs at the Chickamauga and Summerville locations where participants enjoy a variety of activities (such as being part of a handbell choir). Bridge Health also set up host homes (similar to foster care) for adults with IDDs who need a place to stay, and they connect families with resources to help them care for individuals with IDDs.

Bridge Health also runs work-based programs. Reed explained, “For those adults who have a desire to work in the community but it’s difficult because of their disability, we can connect them with businesses.” Currently, three Dade residents are in the IDD program.

Reed said, “We currently partner with Food City to provide employment to an individual in our IDD Supported Employment program. The Supported Employment program has also partnered with Dade County Schools and Ingles in the past.”

She added, “We’ve also partnered with Food City to provide employment for individuals in our Behavioral Health Supported Employment program as well. Similarly to the IDD Supported Employment, this program helps to provide employment to individuals who are recovering from severe and persistent mental illnesses.”

In the official terms of the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards, “CSBs employ innovative, evidence-based treatment methods established and approved by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). CSBs employ a variety of licensed, certified, and credentialed staff statewide, including board-certified psychiatrists, licensed counselors, registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, certified addiction counselors, certified peers, and direct support professionals.”

The association further explained that CSBs help save tax-payers’ money by: “Reducing criminal justice system involvement and incarceration for youth and adults with behavioral challenges; reducing homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity; reducing the burden of untreated mental illness and substance use disorders on employers, hospital emergency departments, families, schools and communities; and reducing preventable death from suicide, overdose and chronic physical diseases associated with behavioral health disorders.”

Bridge Health also runs a foster care program called TREK: Transitioning Resources and Environment for Kids. Reed said, “We do not currently have any foster homes in Dade County, but if anyone is interested in becoming a foster parent, they can call 833-675-8735.”

While each clinic has goals that they work to meet, one major way they see the impact of Bridge Health is through testimonies of those who have been treated. Reed said, “People are very open and excited to say that ‘I’m here today because of Bridge Health.’”

To contact the Trenton location, call 706-956-5526 or call 866-55-BRIDGE for the main hub phone system. For more general information about Bridge Health, visit www.bridgecsb.org. All potential patients first meet with a staff member to go through the intake process.

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