[This guest article is by Melanie Dallas LPC, the CEO of Highland Rivers Behavioral Health]

By Melanie Dallas, PLC

If you’ve ever read an organization’s annual report, you know that it typically provides a summary of the previous year’s accomplishments, highlights of various programs and services, and a financial statement with income and expenses.

Highland Rivers Behavioral Health’s just released annual report for fiscal year 2022 – the 12 months from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 – includes all of these things, but also much more. In fact, our annual report departs somewhat from typical public sector annual reports and helps position our agency for a future that will require flexibility, enhanced local collaboration and continued innovation.

As you may be aware, our agency experienced significant organizational changes in FY22 with the integration of Haralson County Behavioral Health Services and Cobb County Community Services Board, and our change later branded as Highland Rivers Behavioral Health. These consolidations added over 200 employees to the Highland Rivers team. We also expanded our Board of Directors from 14 to 18 members, adding four new Cobb County representatives in recognition of both its large population and the substantial annual financial allocation from the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

While all of these developments alone could fill the pages of an annual report, it is the value of these changes that is highlighted in our report – increased revenues that support increased local investment, the ability to serve many more people in our service area, the ability to scale innovation (with programs such as co-response), and the ability to improve services for veterans. Yes, we’ve added people, but more importantly, we’ve added value – value that will benefit the communities and people we serve.

Another section of our report includes all of our program brochures, reformatted into one-page fact sheets, which not only provide a handy reference on our service lines (mental health treatment, addiction recovery, crisis stabilization , services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, services for children and adolescents, etc.), but also help educate our communities about the variety of services we provide and how to access them.

But the section of the report that I think is most compelling is the 14-page section containing detailed profiles of each county we serve, as well as a profile of the agency as a whole. These county-level profiles include population demographics — age, race, and gender — as well as median income, poverty rates, Medicaid enrollment, county veterans, and number of county residents affected by mental health issues and substance use disorders. Each also includes a list of facilities and services in the county, the local jobs we provide, Highland Rivers’ annual investment in the county, and each county’s allocation to our agency.

To that end, although we receive state funding, the majority of our annual revenue comes from insurance and Medicaid billings for the services we provide (also in the report). County governments are not required to allocate funds to our agency (or any community service board in Georgia); some still do, but most don’t.

However, these county profiles will allow us to start having conversations with local leaders about local funding. The fact is, Highland Rivers Behavioral Health invests millions of dollars in every county we serve and we want to strengthen our partnerships with our county governments, ensuring that we are able to more effectively tailor our services to the needs residents of each county and the identified priorities of local leaders.

In this sense, although Highland Rivers’ annual report presents a review of the past financial year, it is also forward-looking and built around transparency, two essential values ​​for us.

Our FY22 Annual Report is available on the Highland Rivers Behavioral Health website at https://highlandrivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Highland-Rivers-Behavioral-Health-FY22-Annual-Report.pdf. I hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about our agency and the value of our services to every community we serve, now and in the future.

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, which provides treatment and recovery services to people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in a 13 northwest Georgia counties which includes Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, and Whitfield.