Brunswick-based Gateway Behavioral Health Services has been re-accredited in 20 of its programs for the next three years by an international group that requires mental health organizations to meet dozens of specific quality and improvement standards.

The recently awarded status by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an indicator to Gateway Acting Chief Executive David Crews that it is on the right track, nearly two years after the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities appointed him to run the troubled organization.

“It’s a clear indicator our services are continuing without interruption despite some financial difficulties,” Crews said Tuesday.

The CARF, a group of international companies that accredits around 6,800 service providers annually, sent six surveyors to Gateway in February who noted in their report that Gateway staff members at every level of the organization “are passionate, thoughtful, creative, compassionate and strong advocates” for the people they treat.

Those were not the words used by Crews in a September 2013 report to describe Gateway’s former leadership.

Crews issued the report after taking over operations following allegations of financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest against former administrators and board members. In the report he detailed several instances in which millions of dollars in state funds were being improperly used.

Gateway had been operating at a more than $3 million loss for several years after state funds intended for mental health care had been diverted to a money-losing sheltered workshop bottling plant in Camden County, service contracts had been given to members of the board of directors, and more than $1 million had been paid for a property worth less than that amount, Crews’ 2013 report showed.

Since then, with Crews at the helm, conditions have improved greatly. Employee morale is up, turnover is down and services have even been expanded in places like Bryan and Chatham counties, he said.

“It is something we are working on month by month,” Crews said.

As the financial footing of the organization continues to get better, Crews said the 400 staff members that work at Gateway locations in Effingham, Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties have risen to the occasion to continue providing services to the roughly 10,000 coastal Georgia residents they serve annually.

This has all happened during a time when there are four vacant spots on the board of Gateway, a board that has been inactive since Crews was appointed to run the organization in July 2013.

Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry has been overseeing Gateway with Crews.

Board positions representing Liberty, Effingham, Bryan and Long counties are currently vacant. Glynn County Commissioner Bob Coleman and Grant Buckley Jr. currently represent Glynn County on Gateway’s board. Camden County administrator Steve Howard and Dr. Clark Heath Jr. currently represent Camden County on the board.

Gateway is the state’s public safety net for behavioral health services in eight coastal Georgia counties.

Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.

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