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Mentor’s Reach Goes Regional

Editor’s Note:  Cherokee County Parent Mentor JoEllen Hancock has been working as the Vice Chair for the Region I Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Regional Advisory Council and also as a member of the DBHDD Leadership Council. In March 2017, the councils were charged with assisting the department in gathering survey information to help develop work priorities for the coming year.  Hancock also served on the Georgia Parent Mentor Leadership Council as the Chair for the Sunshine Fund.


By JoEllen Hancock

Under the leadership of BHDD Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald, the Regional Advisory Council and the Leadership Council are working together to identify three statewide and regional priorities. The members of these councils have been distributing surveys to poll a wide range of sources, including: local media; community groups; Family Connection Coalitions; faith communities; local government and advocacy groups.

The 2017 Regional Annual Plan identified improvements needed in five areas: Housing Options;


Employment Opportunities and Supports;

Rural Resource Coordination/Development;

Improved Visibility of Public Information on Accessing Non-emergency Services

Scroll to Download the Worksheet

I wanted to become involved with the BHDD Regional Advisory Council and Leadership Councils because I am passionate about trying to change the fact that the State of Georgia has so few options for our children with comorbidity of diagnoses, who have need of multiple services across different categories when they become adults.

Through my own experience with trying to find help for my son I discovered the hard way that those individuals with dual or multi-diagnosis struggle (and are often apparently unsuccessful,) in finding help/support.  The root of this is because the funding for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases are all separate pots of money. Those stakeholders who have dual/multi-diagnoses are ineligible for programs because they have other needs which fall into separate eligibility categories.

For example, it is hard to get treatment for someone who has an addictive disease (one funded program and set of services) who also has been served or is eligible for programs and services through the Developmental Disabilities (for a diagnosis of Autism) funded program. It is the same with a person who is diagnosed and needing treatment for mental health and also needs services and supports for addictive diseases.  While you can probably find treatment of for addiction and mental health, unless the provider understands or are trained to support the needs of clients with a developmental disability…the treatment outcomes are less effective.

This has been my goal since being appointed.  I am talking/meeting/advocating that these departments must reach across to each other and work together or else this problem will continue.

I had contemplated applying to be on the “Planning Boards” for several years but never did for one reason or another.

I was researching something online on my county website, when I saw the application and write up for the position on the RAC (Regional Advisory Board). I felt it was a sign.  So I filled out the application, and the Cherokee County Commissioners voted the next week on my appointment.

I came on board in March 2015. At the June meeting I was invited to be the Vice-Chair.  I agreed to accept the position, which automatically gave me a seat on the Statewide Leadership Council.