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Oversight changed at facility for dangerous mentally ill patients

The state is changing strategies at its maximum security facility for the insane after efforts made in the wake of a beating death there failed to pass muster.

The Cook Building, a maximum-security hospital away from the main Central State Hospital campus in Baldwin County, will now operate separately from the campus. It will fall directly under the supervision of the state’s director of forensic services instead of being managed by the main Central State administrator.

Essentially, facility management has been kicked up the ladder at the state’s newly formed Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which took over control of public mental health services from the Georgia Department of Human Resources earlier this year.

“We’re not making the kind of progress we need to be making,” said Tom Wilson, spokesman for the new department.

The Cook Building is the holding place for many of Georgia’s most dangerous mentally ill patients who have been charged with a crime. Those deemed not guilty by reason of insanity or not competent to stand trial are housed there. In April, inmate Saleeban Adan of Decatur was charged with killing another inmate, Christopher Yates of Centerville.

Investigations pointed to improper supervision for Adan, who already was accused of killing his cellmate at another facility in January. Adan was supposed to have a hospital employee within arm’s length of him at all times, but he didn’t for a portion of that day, according to an internal investigation report on the killing.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which has been performing an all-out review of the state’s mental health system in the wake of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposé on suspicious deaths in state hospitals, also reviewed this specific incident. In one of its follow-up reports earlier this month, the department found that “little progress had been made,” according to a news release from the state.

The Cook facility will now be supervised by Karen Bailey-Smith, the state’s director of forensic services, who reports directly to department Commissioner Frank Shelp, Wilson said.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.

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