2022 Year in review: growth, grants and a bright future

Melanie Dallas headshot

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

It would be an understatement to say 2022 was a year of unprecedented change and growth for Highland Rivers Behavioral Health (not least of which was adding the word ‘behavioral’ to our name, both to clarify and increase awareness of the type of healthcare we provide). Along with the name change, we completed the rebranding of our agency with a new logo and tagline, new signage at all of our facilities, and a new agency website with a new URL, www.highlandrivers.org.

The impetus – and opportunity – for this change was the consolidation of two other agencies into Highland Rivers. On January 1, Haralson County Behavioral Health Services became part of our agency, and on July 1 we welcomed Cobb County Community Services Board into the Highland Rivers family as well.

The addition of these agencies makes Highland Rivers Behavioral Health one of the largest Community Service Boards in Georgia – with a 13-county service area that includes nearly 18% of Georgia’s population, a workforce of more than 900 professionals, and a budget of approximately $75 million.


Although the 20,000 individuals we serve annually may sound like an impressive number, as we transition to a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) operations model – another change we began planning for this year – we expect the number of individuals we serve to increase significantly.

In addition to the expansion of our service locations – the consolidations added two-day program centers for individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities, another crisis unit, a second women’s residential substance use treatment program, as well as a residential substance use program for adolescents – grant funding is helping us expand our services further.

We are in the second year of a partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine to support opiate education and prevention in Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties, while we also received a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to support workforce entry and re-entry for individuals in recovery in Haralson, Murray, Polk and Whitfield counties.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided grant funding to support development of a co-response program in Cherokee County, in partnership with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Co-response pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a uniformed law enforcement officer to respond to individuals in the community in behavioral health crisis. We have had a co-response program in Cobb County since 2019, and this year also began serving as the clinical partner for such a program in Catoosa County (even though that is not one of the counties in our service area).

Veterans also continued to be a priority for Highland Rivers in 2022. In May, the Highland Rivers Foundation hosted Reveille for Hope, a fundraising breakfast for the Green Zone Veterans Community Center we are planning for Cherokee County. We also held our fourth annual veterans recovery celebration – and were thankful to be able to hold it in person this year after two years of hosting it virtually.

Finally, in September, Highland Rivers was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Veterans Administration to enhance suicide prevention among veterans and their families in Cherokee and Pickens counties. As part of this grant, we are partnering with Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, Marietta Vet Center, and the Center for the Advancement of Military and Emergency Services Research at Kennesaw State University to create a cohesive and rapid response to veterans in crisis.

Of course, all of this barely scratches the surface of everything that happened – and all we accomplished – in 2022. None of this could have happened without the outstanding team of Highland Rivers employees, as well as the wonderful partners and local leaders we have in every county we serve. On behalf of Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, I wish you happy holidays and a happy and healthy New Year.

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