News Article Details

Sutton takes over as treatment center administrator

Union-Recorder - 7/17/2019

Jul. 16--EDITOR'S NOTE -- This is part of a multiple-part series focused on Georgia's mental health crisis.

The Center for Wellness, Hope and Learning opened last March in the Cook Building on the former Central State Hospital campus as a new approach for helping people found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity through the court system acclimate to the outside world.

Looking after the 21,427 square foot space, which includes spaces like a cafe, a Therapeutic Incentive Program (TIP) store modeled after a real retail store and moveable walls that can make spaces more open and inviting, is one man's mission.

Gil Sutton recently took the helm as the facility's new administrator. His aim is to build teams that will help heal, treat and accomplish goals with the individuals getting treatment there.

Coming from an acute psychiatric hospital in South Carolina, Sutton is no stranger to the mental health system. In addition to previous jobs, his family life provided him with situations that brought along struggles that he witnessed firsthand.

"When I was a young boy, my sister had intellectual disabilities and she was diagnosed with that," Sutton said. "She has been institutionalized her entire life, and I saw how well the nurses and the doctors took care of her, developing individual treatment plans, helping her to be able to interact socially with not only people in the community but also with her family."

One of his main goals for his new job is to make sure the community is aware of the center and the resources it provides.

"Even with two buildings and 717 employees and serving 182 patients, that's a lot of jobs, that's a lot of involvement in the community, so in other words, we are definitely open," he said enthusiastically. "... There's a shortage [of nurses] not only in Georgia, but across the entire nation, however, if people have those skillsets and are in this area, or places farther away, there are opportunities here to grow."

Treatment malls such as The Center for Wellness Hope and Learning, are a relatively new approach to psychosocial rehabilitaion for patients in state psychiatric hospitals. The center consolidates the hospital's treatment mall services into one innovative, state-of-the-art facility designed to support recovery in an education-like environment, according to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities officials.

The center includes life skills classrooms, an interior garden space, as well as space for art, computer classes, and work therapy. It can serve up to 184 people.

The aim is to teach people practical life skills and how to interact with others in the community.

These types of facilities allow the state to be less overly reliant on the five state hospitals by focusing on this kind of recovery-oriented care, according to DBHDD officials. This approach frees up Georgia's state hospitals to attend to the needs of those with long-term chronic mental illness who cannot be adequately treated in a community-based setting; and the growing population of individuals with mental health needs who are in the judicial system.

The Center for Wellness, Hope and Learning allows for a new sense of pride to be established by both staff and clients. The goal for all involved is for the treatment center to not feel like a hospital, instead creating an environment where people want to receive care and where people want to work. Not only is pride a factor, but in creating this type of space, individuals receiving care really get to hone in on skills that they will use when released.

Sutton emphasized that in order to successfully accomplish goals within the building, a sense of team building needs to be in place.

"Being in the military for 28 years, I think there's a compassionate bone in me for wanting to serve," Sutton said. "I wanted to come back to what really made me think about helping people, assisting people, serving people. ...When you come into an organization like this you have to be able to interact with people on a daily basis and form a team."

Sutton said he is getting to know both the individuals receiving treatment and the staff so that he can adequately advocate for all involved. From different mindsets, ideas and backgrounds, he said he hopes to establish a space full of accuracy, compassion and healing.

Sutton's drive and inspirational attitude transcend throughout his own family and into his work world.

"The way you see tomorrow is to focus on today like it's your last day. Focus on the good stuff," he said.

Sutton said his door is always open and The Center for Wellness, Hope and Learning is always looking for nurses to be a part of his healing team.

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(c)2019 The Union-Recorder (Milledgeville, Ga.)

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