Georgia Crisis & Access Line 10 Years Later

2016-06-30_18-29-16It was late 2005. Inspired by the Single Point of Entry model and Behavioral Health Link’s work in Atlanta, Georgia’s behavioral health authority, or DMHDDAD as it was called at the time, put out a statewide bid for an access and crisis hotline and web-based internet service. Four national managed care companies showed up at the bidders’ conference. The BHL team was determined to take their good work to the next level and create the best crisis and access call system ever. But, they also realized the company’s continued existence depended on it!

2016-06-30_19-19-11So, the BHL team set about to replace and upgrade simply everything! All of the telephony systems, all the hardware including shifting to dual monitors for increased efficiency. They dramatically expanded their physical space by moving additional workstations into the training area that had been the base of operations for the recent Hurricane Katrina FEMA-funded crisis counseling war-room. They also quadrupled the size of the team. But, because of a protest by one of the competitor companies after the award, BHL had only a few short weeks to implement what was designed to take three months.

2016-06-30_19-08-31I remember vividly sketching out the first prototype of a new call center electronic record interface on a train ride to see family and my wife Jeannine peering over my shoulder to offer friendly advice (her background is supply chain management software design). The development team performed seventeen miracles to get the new Call Center Information Database (CCID) system ready but it was rolled out for testing only days prior to the launch. The team was forced to skip the usual four to six week process of quality testing and training but the adoption of the new “live-fire” environment created a faster-paced team and fostered a culture of aggressive innovation that continues at BHL today.

The Air Traffic Control Model Visualized

The Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) received 21,500 calls during July 2006. Crisis calls started pouring in at midnight June 30, 2006 with the immediate transfer of nearly 20 different legacy hotlines from across the state and the very first calls on what would become the central statewide Georgia Crisis & Access Line 1-800-715-4225, as company CEO & President Gregg Graham flew a small plane back and forth across the state like he was mowing the lawn and airdropping millions of GCAL cards (well, it certainly seemed like that’s what he was doing)!

At the end of the day, it was the people answering the phones who made GCAL a success that very first month. The team was truly building the plane they were already flying in July 2006. Their expertise in the new protocols and systems was just emerging, but their care to engage, collaborate, problem-solve, support and advocate with callers, their family and friends and the social services and first responders who support them that made all the difference. Still does.

See detailed timeline.

And, huge thanks to my business partner Gregg for his leadership and vision. He and I sat together at a table in Durango’s Steakhouse across Peachtree street from the current BHL office in the summer of 2002, and he painted a picture of a statewide service that would revolutionize crisis intervention and access to care. It sounded impossible, but I liked it.

Thanks to each of those individuals who helped launch this big dream in 2006 and make it happen and the team at BHL that continues the work today! The individuals below are still with the Company in some capacity and supported the Georgia Crisis & Access Line launch ten years ago:

  • Bruce Albert
  • Crystal Bass
  • Mimi Etienne
  • CEO Wendy Farmer (Schneider)
  • President Gregg Graham
  • Jim Frank
  • Darcel Gentry
  • John Grady
  • Angela Hammond
  • Felicia Hilton
  • Nicole Bartell
  • Anthony Swift
  • Allison Trammell
  • Dr. Mahaveer Vakharia
  • Adam Williams
  • Kathy Wheelin
  • Emeka Wolfe-Norman


Special recognition to the pioneering leaders at Georgia DBHDD and BHL’s new partnership with Beacon Health Options that is taking the system to new heights of integration with the Georgia Collaborative ASO.


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