Search Results for: Art works

Art Works Program


Art Works Gallery is located in the beautiful and historic Mission Inn District of Riverside, CA.  Since 2008, Art Works has opened its doors to people from all walks of life, whose lives have been touched by mental health challenges and recovery. We offer creative arts classes and workshops free of cost, supplies included.  Our vision is reach people, wherever they are in their recovery process, and to assist them in the transformative process that creative expression facilitates; just as it did in our lives.

 Art Works Gallery offers classes five days per week in all areas of the creative arts.  The Art Works calendar changes each month and has included the following classes: drawing, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, fiber arts, jewelry, mixed media, dance, drama, music, creative writing, poetry, paper arts, mandala making, glass works and sculpture. Students are able to consign their art work at the gallery to earn income as well.   In addition, Art Works offers a unique opportunity for local community artists to share their talents with students at After Works, an art social event that takes place each Friday evening. By reaching out and inviting in our greater community, we find that the wall of stigma begins to crumble and the bridge of hope and compassion builds. Exhibitions at Art Works Gallery are rotated every two months.  As a recovery-oriented program, each of Art Works Gallery’s exhibitions is centered around a recovery theme, such as what art has taught a person about him or herself, the power of personal history, and how a person’s recovery can shine through their art pieces.  In addition to the Art Works Gallery exhibit space, we also partner with local venues to display artwork, such as our permanent off-site exhibition space at the Riverside Downtown Metro Building which houses the MHSA Administration offices. This allows for a greater number of people to enjoy the beautiful art created in our program.

Art Works programs and projects are not confined solely to Downtown Riverside.  Because Riverside County is a large and far-reaching county, Art Works has a mobile project called Recovery In Motion.  This mobile project travels to underserved locations throughout Riverside County where individuals would not typically have the opportunity to take advantage of weekly Art Works classes.  These community-based classes are 4-8 sessions in length and combine arts instruction with recovery principles.  In addition, students at Recovery In Motion classes will receive a take-away (such as an art kit or performance) upon completion of the 4-8 week class session.

Art Works’ programs and projects are funded by Riverside County Dept. of Mental Health, the Riverside Arts Council, and other generous donors.  To learn more about classes, workshops, exhibitions, and opportunities to get involved, please contact us through email at or call us at (951) 683-1279. We are always looking for instructors, patrons and others who support our mission.

To view our Recovery Education Calendars and Class descriptions, click here.

RI Celebrates Global Peer Support Day

RI International Recognizes the Important Work of Our Peer Supporters Nationwide

Every year RI International celebrates Global Peer Supporter Recognition Day with the rest of the country. The purpose of this day is to increase awareness of who peer supporters are, what they do, and to shed light on the many valuable contributions they (and all of our employees) make to human services.

With 40% of our staff serving as Peer Supporters, RI International has the largest private team of Peer Supporters in the nation (behind only the Veterans’ Administration). We are delighted to thank our Peer Support staff for all that they do.







Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day

Safe Haven Team (Riverside, CA)


Art Works Team (Riverside, CA)

20151015 Global Peer Supporters Celebration Day cake

RI International Peer Supporters received accolades… and cake.





California News and Events


 Riverside County Calendars

Click the County Name link above to visit the County Page. Click the Calendar links below to open and/or download copies of this month’s activity calendar for each county location.

April 2018

Class Descriptions

Wellness City Perris Adult / Young Adult | Wellness City Riverside Adult / Young Adult

Wellness City Temecula Adult | Wellness City Banning Adult / Young Adult

Wellness City Indio Adult /Young Adult | Wellness City Palm Springs Adult


Art Works Calendars



Contra Costa County Calendars

Click the County Name link above to visit the County Page. Click the Calendar links below to open and/or download copies of this month’s activity calendar for each county location.


January| Concord (Central) Calendar  Antioch (East) Calendar |  San Pablo (West) Calendar


San Diego

Click the County Name link above to visit the San Diego County Page. Click the Newsletter links below to open and/or download copies of the most recent issues.

Peers Linking Peers

RI Recovery

Wellness Cities and Peer Support Services


RI San Diego Peer Liaison Team

The RI model has had a global impact on the mental health field serving as a demonstration that recovery from mental illness and/or addiction is possible.

Using principles and practices that create recovery opportunities, RI International offers Wellness Cities in multiple locations in five states, providing individual and group peer support, physical fitness gyms, and education and socialization programs. We’re currently expanding our Peer Bridger/Navigator opportunities to ensure successful community transition of our participants (diverting from inpatient hospitalization and re-admission). We’re placing an emphasis on demonstrating measurably both the recovery and cost-savings benefits of these programs.

Wellness Cities

Wellness City is founded on the recovery principles of hope, personal choice, empowerment, development of an environment of wellness and independence, and the encouragement of spirituality and community enriched by contribution. Wellness City is a community made up of individuals embarking on or expanding their recovery journey. A staff of well-trained peers who have experienced their own recovery challenges and successes share what they have learned and work alongside practitioners and educators who are committed to the founding principles of the recovery community. The citizens of Wellness City who are beginning their recovery journey will learn to identify personal strengths and challenges and will develop personalized plans that incorporate life experiences, newly learned skills and goals and dreams for the future. Read more about RI International’s Wellness Cities.

Peer Support Services

At RI International we have seen the power of the peer experience, and rely on a workforce of Peer Support Specialists who transform their past experiences into healing for others. The use of Peer Support Specialists has been the most significant factor in moving recovery forward in individual lives as well as within our organization and the service system. Peer Support Specialists are employed at RI International’s service sites and programs across the country. Read more about RI International’s Peer Support Services and Programs.

Art Works42142387533047.nVH6sKSZVsbmDipkvN3x_height640

Based in Riverside, California, the Art Works program opens its doors to people from all walks of life, whose lives have been touched by mental health challenges and recovery. Featuring a gallery space and classes that are free of cost to participating artists, Art Works reaches people wherever they are in their recovery process, and assists them in the transformative process that emerges through creative expression. Read more about RI International’s Art Works program.


Riverside County Home

RI International in Riverside County, CA is building a peer workforce that is making a difference. We have seen the power of the peer experience and train peers as Peer Support Specialists who transform their past experiences into healing for others. The use of Peer Support Specialists has been the most significant factor in moving recovery forward in individual lives as well as within our organization and the service system. Click here to learn more about the Peer Employment Training course

RI International offers a number of outpatient services throughout the county. These programs offer a number of services that create opportunities to empower people and organizations to recovery. Click on the programs listed below for additional information and locations!

We provide Recovery Education classes such as WRAP, WELL and Home is Where the Heart Is which enable people to develop self-help skills. One-to-one Peer Support and recovery classes at our Wellness City Programs provide people a recovery education and develops connection to community. Peer Employment Training and other recovery trainings for individuals equip students and organizations to provide recovery based programs. Our Art Works Program provides recovery opportunities through the creative arts and inspires artists to give back to others and the community.

Our programs focus on wellness to maximize the growth of hope, knowledge, skills, and supports, allowing each person to move forward in their recovery. We inspire connection to the Recovery Pathways – Hope, Choice, Empowerment, Recovery Environment and Meaning and Purpose – to support a person’s journey as each creates a self-directed plan to reach wellness goals.

Browse our website to learn about recovery opportunities in California. If you have questions or would like more information about RI International in Riverside, CA, please contact us.

24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Centers are also available in Riverside County.

RI International – Riverside County has two 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Centers open. The Centers provides individualized support for adults experiencing mental health challenges in a supportive recovery-oriented environment. For more information, call (951) 509-2499.

  • 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Center – Riverside
    9890 County Farm Rd, Bldg 2
    Riverside, CA 92503
  • 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Center – Palm Springs
    2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A4
    Palm Springs, CA 92262

Opioid Crisis Hits Wilmington Area Hard; Lack of Public Resources Hinders Response

This is an abridged version of the original article. Click here to read the full article.

North Carolina’s place in the national opioid crisis is nothing new here – and the news that Wilmington is the top city in the nation for opioid abuse doesn’t surprise people.

These days, from well-to-do Market Street lined with live elms to the dilapidated and garbage strewn Houston Moore and Hillcrest housing projects, addiction is uniting the city. Acknowledging that has been a long time coming.

Joe Stanley Wellness City

Joe Stanley has been clean for 13 years and now helps others at Wellness City. (Photo: Joe Killian)

“There’s been a bad drug problem here for a lot of years,” says Joe Stanley. “But people are just beginning to really pay attention to it because you’re seeing that other demographic affected – middle class white people, rich people, people who are into prescribed pills and don’t start out with heroin. Now they’re seeing it can happen to anybody. Addiction can come for anyone.”

Stanley knows. He’s been clean for 13 years and now works as a peer support specialist, helping other addicts at the Wellness City recovery center on South 17th Street. But he spent decades abusing drugs – mostly crack – in Wilmington.

Most people working with addicts here agree – when the bodies were mostly black and being found in flop houses or behind gas stations, there was a lot less attention to the epidemic. But in the decade between 2005 and 2015 opioid-related deaths jumped from 26 to 45 in New Hanover County. That’s nearly as many as in Guilford County, whose population is more than twice as large.

But New Hanover County is 81 percent white. Its median income is just over $50,000 a year – higher than much larger Guilford. So not all of those struggling with and dying from addiction are, as so many people here say carefully, “who you’d think.”

Kris Ludacher, director of the Wellness City.

Kris Ludacher, director of the Wellness City. (Photo: Joe Killian)

Kris Ludacher is the director of the Wellness City – a no-cost, peer-support recovery operation that opened just last year. The group held 125 sessions – they don’t like to call them “classes” – last month for people struggling with addiction, mental health problems and both.

But before he was running the Wellness City, he spent eight years with a mobile crisis unit here. Even eight years ago about two-thirds of the calls were for substance abuse – and the number of opioid overdose calls were on the climb. Ludacher said he noticed a related trend.

“It used to be that you’d get an overdose call and it would be in a Chick-fil-A bathroom,” Ludacher said. “But then you started getting those calls and they were at half-million dollar yachts.”

Government services in New Hanover County are doing their best to combat the epidemic – but the need is great and the resources sorely lacking.

The county recently produced a series of public service announcement videos on various angles of the epidemic. But the piece of the story that is often overlooked is the impact on the families and children of those struggling with addiction here.

Mary Beth Rubright is Child Protective Services Chief with the Department of Social Services in New Hanover County. Her department has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic here, experiencing a 93 percent increase in the number of children who need foster homes in the four-year period between 2012 and 2016.

Add to that the sharp spike in child deaths related to opioid addicted parents –  in car crashes, parents who roll over on children who sleep with them, severe neglect and suicide.

“The numbers are scary,” Rubright said.

There are now nearly 500 children in foster care in New Hanover, a number approaching that of some of the state’s largest counties.

Medicaid expansion would be a godsend to some people trying to get on and stay on a real recovery path, Davis said. That’s a call many lawmakers in Raleigh have been sounding for years, but the GOP majority is not yet on board.

In the meantime, those on the ground agree a serious commitment of resources to combat the epidemic is needed.

Wanda Marino, assistant director for Social Work Services in New Hanover, said the first step is acknowledging the problem – something New Hanover is doing, but many communities are not.

“And we need more resources, more staff who receive substance abuse training, more resources to hold on to good staff so that we aren’t having to replace them and they aren’t chasing their tails,” Marino said. “We have a great staff here. They work hard and they are trained. But we just need more of them. I think that’s the case in a lot of places.”

Read the Full Article Here

ASIST – Suicide Intervention

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid. ASIST teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. Although ASIST is widely used by healthcare providers, participants don’t need any formal training to attend the workshop—anyone 16 or older can learn and use the ASIST model.

Since its development in 1983, ASIST has received regular updates to reflect improvements in knowledge and practice, and over 1,000,000 people have taken the workshop. Studies show that the ASIST method helps reduce suicidal feelings in those at risk and is a cost-effective way to help address the problem of suicide.

Learning goals and objectives

Over the course of their two-day workshop, ASIST participants learn to:

  • Understand the ways that personal and societal attitudes affect views on suicide and interventions
  • Provide guidance and suicide first aid to a person at risk in ways that meet their individual safety needs
  • Identify the key elements of an effective suicide safety plan and the actions required to implement it
  • Appreciate the value of improving and integrating suicide prevention resources in the community at large
  • Recognize other important aspects of suicide prevention including life-promotion and self-care

Workshop features:

  • Presentations and guidance from two LivingWorks registered trainers
  • A scientifically proven intervention model
  • Powerful audiovisual learning aids
  • Group discussions
  • Skills practice and development
  • A balance of challenge and safety

Our master instructor Michael Zeeb is a certified trainer of ASIST. Please contact Aaron Foster, Director of Education at (602) 636-4467 for further information or to schedule a training.

Building careers and futures for our members; the RI Career Center!

Supported Employment

The Supported Employment model insists that the provider works with the person when the person is ready to work – not after assessments, not after evaluation, not after they have completed this or that! The services are offered in a safe environment and with minimal prerequisites.

  • Eligibility is based on consumer choice with “Zero Exclusion”.
  • Services are integrated with comprehensive mental health treatment.
  • Competitive employment is the goal.
  • Personalized benefits counseling is important
  • Job Search starts soon after consumers express interest in working.
  • Follow-along supports are continuous.
  • Consumer’s preferences are important.

We also offer:

  1. Employment preparation: resume/cover letter/reference letter writing, practicing application submitting (online and in person), interviewing skills training, computer job search
  2. Job development/placement
  3. Computer skills training: MS Office Suite products, electronic health records, keyboarding to increas typing speed and accuracy
  4. Vocational wellness: V-IMR – the Boston University vocational version of the evidence-based Illness Management and Recovery program. Offered in group and individual format
  5. Vocational Activity Profile – creating a complete overview of your vocational wants, desires and dreams
  6. 1:1 Career Counseling and Vocational Peer Support

Our team is comprised of Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, Licensed Associate Counselors, Vocational Rehab Counselors, re-entry experts and peer support specialists.

Building careers and futures for our members; the RI Career Center!

Peer Supports: Where’s the Evidence?

peer supports panelIt was the late 1990s, and there was little published evidence on the efficacy of peer supports. Georgia’s Wendy Tiegreen had grown up in behavioral health… literally. Her father led a non-profit community mental health center, and she had seen the volunteer corps of people in recovery firsthand. These individuals understood the level of pain others were experiencing and were frequently providing informal supports. Wendy had heard of a couple of pockets of similar programs in New York, but that was about it.

Five years earlier, Bill Anthony and the psychiatric rehabilitation movement had declared the 1990s “the decade of recovery.” But, unfortunately, the concepts of “what’s strong, not what’s wrong” and peer supports had simply not made any material headway into mainstream mental health. In over 2,000 community mental health centers across the country, “recovery” was a word seldom used and peer support staff did not exist.

At the time, Wendy was one of the program leaders at the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) which occupied the middle floors of the 2 Peachtree Street high rise in downtown Atlanta. Larry Fricks’ office was just down the hall. He was the director of the Office of Consumer Relations and Recovery and had helped co-found the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN), which beginning in 1992 had since hosted one of the largest statewide annual conventions in the nation of people receiving mental health services.

From the beginning, GMHCN had surveyed its membership of “consumers” and publicized their annual top five objectives, with increased employment opportunities continuously holding the top spot. One of their most acclaimed successes nationally was supporting nearly 3,000 individuals in finding meaningful work in Georgia communities by the August 1999 convention.

Peer support panel

Former US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher with Dr. Jerry Reed and Representative Patrick Kennedy

It was also in 1999 that the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health was published. Another Georgia connection, Dr. David Satcher was also US Secretary of Health at the time and a founding director and senior advisor to the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. This key report was important for many reasons, but in particular, it introduced “self-help groups” and peer supports as an emerging evidence based practice and chronicled the history of the recovery movement.

Satcher and company described in detail the consumer movement of the 1970s and its protest of the indignities and abuses experienced in psychiatric inpatient facilities. They trace the history back to former patients Clifford Beers and Judi Chamberlin. In 1908, Beers wrote “A Mind That Found Itself” and ignited the first reform movement. In the 1960s, Chamberlin, with a similar asylum experience and motivated by the civil rights movement, became one of the primary leaders forming liberation organizations to advocate for increased self-determination and basic rights.

Judi Chamberlin, 1978

Judi Chamberlin, “On Our Own” (1978)

In 1978, Chamberlin wrote “On Our Own,” which the Surgeon General’s report referred to as a “benchmark in the history of the consumer movement.” It led to much more widespread understanding of the extra difficulties of experiencing mental health challenges and what services were really like. Over the next 20 plus years, Chamberlin was successful in raising the bar, with this inclusion in the 2000 report from the National Council on Disability, “Patient privileges, such as the ability to wear their own clothes, leave the confines of psychiatric facility, or receive visitors, should instead be regarded as basic rights.”

In the late 1990s, it would be several more years before SAMHSA would recognized peer support services and Consumer operated programs as evidence based practices, which they later did in 2002 and 2009, respectively. Meta Services was beginning to hire peers in Phoenix, Arizona and formulate key concepts around a recovery organization, but it would be a few years before the impact was known outside the Southwest, and the Company would not change its name to Recovery Innovations until 2005.

Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks

Georgia’s Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks

In this context, with the timing just right, Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks joined forces with a mission to advance peer supports and recovery in Georgia. In 1999, they achieved a striking breakthrough, and successfully brokered with CMS (federal Medicaid) the first statewide provision of billable Peer Support Services. Their crystal clear and yet audacious goal was to build out the lived experience voice and in so doing to also expand and transform the thoughts and minds of administrators and policy makers, while creating a new employment niche for peer providers.

These Georgia innovators quickly realized that their victory would be short-lived without the necessary infrastructure, and over the course of the next 18 months, they led the construction of the curriculum and credentialing required for success. In December 2001, 35 individuals gradated in the first class of Certified Peer Specialists. Throughout this system redesign, the DBHDD team focused not only on peer supports but on what creates recovery and how to build environments conducive to recovery, as they saw these elements as crucial to a successful implementation.

15 years later, Georgia is a national leader with $20 million per year in utilization of services provided by Certified Peer Supports. They have continued to expand the model outside the original core focus, and these services now include peer respite, drop-in centers, wellness centers, and peer supported warm lines. Certified Peer Specialists also serve in administrative roles in addition to the traditional direct services roles. In 2009, Sherry Jenkins Tucker, the Executive Director of GMHCN, was awarded the Mental Health America Clifford Beers award, designated for a “mental health consumer whose service and leadership best… improve conditions for and attitudes toward people with mental health conditions.”

Today, Wendy Tiegreen is the “Medicaid expert for Peer Support” guru, having consulted with 37 states to adopt and implement peer supports as a Medicaid billable service. She has provided technical assistance through CMS, SAMHSA, NASMPHD and the National Association of State Legislators, and averages two to three state visits per year. And… she is not resting on her laurels. Georgia is continuing to expand the application of peer support, with young adult, formal addiction, co-occurring disorders and trauma informed care tracks. Now, she’s turning her attention to extra credentials for health coaching and prevention, as peer supports becomes approved for a whole health approach.

See Link: Georgia’s Community Behavioral Health Provider Manual which, within, defines the state’s various Peer Support services.

After their success in Georgia, Larry Fricks partnered with Ike Powell and launched the Appalachian Consulting Group (ACG), received a SAMHSA Lifetime Achievement Voice Award and became an integrated care and recovery leader with the National Council for Behavioral Health, appearing on the Today Show in 2008 after his story was included in the book “Strong in the Broken Places.” Last month, Larry gave the keynote at the 25 year celebration of the GMHCN annual conference and reviewed the success, from grassroots to national innovation and from pioneering certified peer specialists to documentation of reduced hospital admissions and crisis costs.

See Link: SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, operated by the National Council for Beahvioral Health (Larry Fricks is the Deputy Director)

Almost 20 years later, the published evidence of peer supports has grown but we still have a long way to go in building the rigorous research required to take the program to scale.

To be fair though, I would argue that the same could be said for traditional mental health programs (counseling, case management, medical management, etc.) During the recession, from 2010 to 2012, my team at a large health plan closely tracked 6,000 individuals with serious mental illness who lost access to the core services described above and the vast majority experienced little change or fared slightly better in their two year absence (the algorithm included over 15 key indicators including community outcomes and costs).

If we used the world happiness scale as our index instead, the existing infrastructure of traditional mental health services would be strongly challenged on every core metric:

  1. Income per person
  2. Social supports and connectedness
  3. Health life expectancy
  4. Freedom to make life choices

80 to 85% of those with serious mental illness are unemployed. A significant number live alone, and don’t have someone to talk to about their problems or go out to dinner with on a Friday night. The years of potential life lost as a result of heart disease, diabetes, COPD, suicide and accidental deaths puts them on par with individuals in lower income countries. And, finally, we are seeing a call for increased assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), a euphemism for court-ordered and mandated outpatient care.

By contrast, it’s self-evident that hiring people with lived experience and providing them training as Certified Peer Supports would positively impact several of the happiness core metrics.

So, again, where are we with the evidence on peer support?

Wendy and I had a conversation with leadership from the National Institute of Mental Health recently to review the work completed to date and request funding be targeted at more rigorous outcomes research going forward.

Over the last 20 years, Wendy has compiled and maintained a quick guide to peer supports outcomes and credibility, and she believes much of this work has been very good, but we need more work and that is very challenging when the resources to date have required stringing together funding from occasional grants.

I was working in the Georgia behavioral health system in the late 1990s and remember what it felt like as these dynamics came together. Like today, there was resistance and many naysayers, but Wendy, Larry and countless others made tremendous breakthroughs, in large part because of the pioneers before them who had made it possible.

It just feels similar now in that we as a nation are poised to make the same kind of full scale advances to peer supports and recovery that Georgia and Arizona did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When the White House takes notice, I think maybe something special is occurring.

Earlier this year, Symplur participated in a White House workshop which was focused on engaging participants as partners in research. Symplur is an analytics and big data company interested in the intersection of social media and healthcare. After discussions with Obama administration officials, they went back and began “building on the effort of many to strengthen the voices in healthcare that are too often ignored.”

Stakeholder Mix at Healthcare Conferences

For those of us in behavioral healthcare, the word “patients” is off-putting, but the essence of Symplur’s findings are that healthcare conferences don’t value the input of individuals who receive services. Only 1 in 100 influencers is a patient, and the depressing statistic has been stagnant since 2013. On the question of evidence for the approach, the Symplur team concludes, “The inherent value and profit of partnering with patients for healthcare conferences should at this point be self-evident.”

Last Thursday was a watershed moment at the White House, which has been the host of upteen mental health summits. This one was the last in a series on Making Health Care Better, with previous sessions addressing diabetes and heart disease, and this one focused on suicide prevention. And, for the first time, a panel was explicitly brought together to focus on the value of lived experience (see picture at beginning of blog).

Dr. John Draper moderated the discussion and introduced pioneers who came out of the closet even prior to the late 1990s when Wendy and Larry began their work . These leaders included Heidi Bryan, Leah Harris and DeQuincy Lezine, the latter a psychologist who leads the newly founded lived experience division for the American Association of Suicidology.

He concluded his opening remarks with the question, “Looking for evidence?”

And, as he scanned the panel of peer leaders, his answer, “Look here.”

Download: Quick Guide to Peer Supports Research/Outcomes

Georgia Crisis & Access Line 10 Years Later

georgia crisis and access lineIt was late 2005. Inspired by the Single Point of Entry model and Behavioral Health Link’s work in Atlanta, Georgia’s behavioral health authority, or DMHDDAD as it was called at the time, put out a statewide bid for an access and crisis hotline and web-based internet service. Four national managed care companies showed up at the bidders’ conference. The BHL team was determined to take their good work to the next level and create the best crisis and access call system ever. But, they also realized the company’s continued existence depended on it!

georgia crisis and access line staffSo, the BHL team set about to replace and upgrade simply everything! All of the telephony systems, all the hardware including shifting to dual monitors for increased efficiency. They dramatically expanded their physical space by moving additional workstations into the training area that had been the base of operations for the recent Hurricane Katrina FEMA-funded crisis counseling war-room. They also quadrupled the size of the team. But, because of a protest by one of the competitor companies after the award, BHL had only a few short weeks to implement what was designed to take three months.

replicating the georgia crisis and access line modelI remember vividly sketching out the first prototype of a new call center electronic record interface on a train ride to see family and my wife Jeannine peering over my shoulder to offer friendly advice (her background is supply chain management software design). The development team performed seventeen miracles to get the new Call Center Information Database (CCID) system ready but it was rolled out for testing only days prior to the launch. The team was forced to skip the usual four to six week process of quality testing and training but the adoption of the new “live-fire” environment created a faster-paced team and fostered a culture of aggressive innovation that continues at BHL today.

air traffic control model

The Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) received 21,500 calls during July 2006. Crisis calls started pouring in at midnight June 30, 2006 with the immediate transfer of nearly 20 different legacy hotlines from across the state and the very first calls on what would become the central statewide Georgia Crisis & Access Line 1-800-715-4225, as company CEO & President Gregg Graham flew a small plane back and forth across the state like he was mowing the lawn and airdropping millions of GCAL cards (well, it certainly seemed like that’s what he was doing)!

At the end of the day, it was the people answering the phones who made GCAL a success that very first month. The team was truly building the plane they were already flying in July 2006. Their expertise in the new protocols and systems was just emerging, but their care to engage, collaborate, problem-solve, support and advocate with callers, their family and friends and the social services and first responders who support them that made all the difference. Still does.

innovation highlights/awards

See detailed timeline.

And, huge thanks to my business partner Gregg for his leadership and vision. He and I sat together at a table in Durango’s Steakhouse across Peachtree street from the current BHL office in the summer of 2002, and he painted a picture of a statewide service that would revolutionize crisis intervention and access to care. It sounded impossible, but I liked it.

Thanks to each of those individuals who helped launch this big dream in 2006 and make it happen and the team at BHL that continues the work today! The individuals below are still with the Company in some capacity and supported the Georgia Crisis & Access Line launch ten years ago:

  • Bruce Albert
  • Crystal Bass
  • Mimi Etienne
  • CEO Wendy Farmer (Schneider)
  • President Gregg Graham
  • Jim Frank
  • Darcel Gentry
  • John Grady
  • Angela Hammond
  • Felicia Hilton
  • Nicole Bartell
  • Anthony Swift
  • Allison Trammell
  • Dr. Mahaveer Vakharia
  • Adam Williams
  • Kathy Wheelin
  • Emeka Wolfe-Norman


Special recognition to the pioneering leaders at Georgia DBHDD and BHL’s new partnership with Beacon Health Options that is taking the system to new heights of integration with the Georgia Collaborative ASO.