Houston & Peach

Mental health official visits WR facility

WARNER ROBINS — Jewel Norman said she wishes those dealing with mental health issues in more communities had more options like the New Hope Community Care Center, which she visited Thursday.

Norman, who was appointed the state’s ombudsman for mental health by Gov. Sonny Perdue in July, was invited to town for the center’s spring luncheon. It gave her a chance to speak with the facility’s workers and “consumers” — what mental health professionals call those who lived there.

“I wish there was something like this in every community,” she told the group of about 25, including workers and those who either lived in apartments connected to the facility or came in often for care. “It’s incredible here.”

Barbara Lillie Long, the executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Central Georgia Chapter, said the New Hope Community Care Center, run by NAMI, has been providing support for people dealing with mental illness since the 1980s. Currently, 11 people are housed at the facility. Others come in to take advantage of the resources available to them. The group also helps with job opportunities. “We try to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness,” Long said.

Norman, who had retired after a long career working in the mental health field, works to educate people on the state’s mental health system and investigates claims of inadequate care as they come to her. With budget cuts throughout the state affecting care available to those suffering from mental illness, it’s more important now to encourage programs that are willing and able to help.

“I’m here ... to tell them to keep doing what they’re doing,” Norman said. “This is about helping to the best of my ability.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.