COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is hosting the 2022 PATH Conference in Columbus from Tuesday, Oct. 25 to Thursday, Oct. 27. The PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) members participating are all mental health outreach workers.

“We were just very, very pleased that the first in-person conference in three years, they decided to host it here in Columbus,” said Pat Frey, the vice president of Home for Good, a program of United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley that targets homelessness.

The conference began with a day of service and outreach to the homeless. At about 7:30 a.m., over 40 PATH team members from across the state registered for the event, received goody bags and were welcomed to the city.

PATH members then went to SafeHouse Ministries, located at 2101 Hamilton Road, and Grace House at 4810 Kolb Avenue. SafeHouse Ministries had a resource fair in which Columbus Technical College students gave haircuts and trimmed facial hair.

“You had housing providers providing resources, connections with benefits, with signing up for Medicaid, with signing up for food stamps, anything like that,” Frey said. “We did coordinated entry, which is our access to emergency and permanent housing referrals, and everything you can think of in-between.”

This week during the conference, PATH members will attend a series of workshops on topics such as continuing education, self-care, managing stress and de-escalation of certain situations. Tomorrow, they will attend a dinner with a formerly homeless keynote speaker.

“It’s a way for the teams to get their education for the year, to make some connections, to network, to decompress a little bit and exchange ideas,” Frey said.

Frey said many PATH members have always worked in the mental health field but that many of them have backgrounds in social work, medicine, education, criminal justice and the military.

“And we also have what we call certified peer specialists, which are those with what we call lived experience, those who had the issues, were homeless at some point, have a mental health diagnosis and have turned the corner and are now pulling people up from the depths that they were in,” she said.

This event is being held in collaboration with SafeHouse Ministries; United Way’s Home for Good; New Horizons Behavioral Health; AmericanWork, Inc.; The Pastoral Institute; The Family Center; The Department of Public Health; Columbus State University; Columbus Technical College; Better Work Columbus; NAMI; St. Anne’s Catholic Church; Buffalo Rock Pepsi; Enrichment Services, Inc.; Feeding the Valley; The Bradley Center, West Central Georgia Regional Hospital and individual donors. 

About PATH:

PATH teams work in coordination with SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to identify homeless individuals with mental illnesses, give them treatment and connect them with mental health services and other resources to end their homelessness.

About United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley:

United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley aims to advance equity in the community and promote the well-being of children, families and community members. For more information, visit unitedecv.org.