By Taylor Sisk
The UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health and XDS Inc., a nonprofit agency serving adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses in Orange and four surrounding counties, announced Tuesday that they are merging operations.
â€œCombining forces with XDS allows us to continue to develop evidence-based, cost-effective treatment and training models that span a continuum of care and address the changing needs of a patient whose illness lasts a lifetime,â€ said John Gilmore, the centerâ€™s co-director. â€œI am very excited about XDS staff joining with us in this work.â€
XDS, or Cross Development Services, primarily serves those with dual diagnoses, which may include, in addition to mental illness, substance abuse or a developmental disability. Among its primary services is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), which provides an outreach team offering a range of support on an around-the-clock basis.
The Center for Excellence is based at UNCâ€™s School of Medicine and includes the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program (STEP) and Outreach and Support Intervention Services (OASIS) for adolescents and young adults who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, early psychosis.
Both STEP and OASIS have offices in Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro. Care is provided by a multidisciplinary team and includes medical and psychosocial treatment, including family support.
The center also provides training for graduate students from UNCâ€™s nursing, social work and psychology programs.
Thava Mahadevan, XDSâ€™ former executive director, will now serve as director of operations at the center, which will operate as a Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency, or CABHA, a new model of provider introduced on Jan. 1 by the state Department of Health and Human Services for the purpose of consolidating mental health, developmental disabilities and substance-abuse programs within fewer, larger providers.
â€œI am very optimistic that with our combined forces, and with our UNC partner Horizons, the UNC School of Medicine will be able to create a sustainable CABHA,â€ said center co-director Bebe Smith.
Smith said that Mahadevanâ€™s â€œknowledge of the public mental health system and success at running a nonprofit mental health agency in challenging times combined with our longstanding clinical programs that focus on the underserved and those with complex mental health challenges will make us stronger.â€
A Tuesday press release stated that the newly expanded center will â€œform new lines of study based on broader community mental health experiences to improve recovery outcomesâ€ and â€œexpand its capacity to apply what is being learned in academic and scientific settings to real-life situations.â€
â€œIn our new form, the center will have a broader range of clinical training experiences, plus greatly expanded numbers of experts on severe mental illness to better reach and teach mental health service providers across the state,â€ Gilmore said.
â€œWe will continue to place a focus on psychiatric treatment, but will expand into recovery-oriented areas that focus on healing through creativity,â€ Smith said.
Smith pointed to the centerâ€™s art gallery, Brushes with Life, as an example of this approach.
Last summer, XDS moved from Chapel Hill to a 40-acre campus in Chatham County, on which it plans to expand activities to include horticulture therapy in partnership with the N.C. Botanical Garden, horseback riding, a music studio and art and pottery classes.
â€œIâ€™m feeling very hopeful that weâ€™ll be able to create some innovative, recovery-oriented programs that will benefit from our combined clinical and rehabilitative expertise and our shared deep commitment to making sure that persons with severe mental illness have access to the things we all want in life,â€ Smith said.