Seeing the need
Skyland Trail began with the determination of Atlanta business leader Charles B. West to fill a void in mental illness treatment. In the early 1980s the dominant treatment model in Atlanta was hospitalization for acute cases, aimed at stabilization. There was no long-term treatment program with the goal of offering therapies, together with the skills needed to reintegrate back into the community.
Through a friend’s experience, Mr. West recognized the need for the latter approach. He was nearing retirement from the family business, West Lumber Company. Turning his energies to the new cause, in 1982 he established The George West Mental Health Foundation, named for his father, and recruited a committed board of directors. The board studied programs and innovations across the nation that looked beyond short-term stabilization to long-term recovery.
In 1989 the first facility opened, a treatment residence called Skyland Trail. This name quickly became the foundation’s identity. In 1991 Skyland Trail added aftercare to support reintegration into community life. Through a strategic plan adopted in 1995, Skyland Trail effectively invented a new model for treatment and service delivery, emphasizing comprehensive community-based therapy. Following this plan, a second residence was added for short-term clients and the original residence became focused on long-term treatment. These residences subsequently were renamed Skyland Trail North and Skyland Trail South. The Skyland Trail Health and Education Center opened in 1999, the result of a capital campaign that surpassed its objective by raising $13.5 million to build a state-of-the-art headquarters and day treatment facility.
Recognition and growth
By its 10th anniversary, Skyland Trail was gaining a national reputation. Over the next several years it won the American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Award, the Rosalynn Carter Caregiver Award and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta's Managing for Excellence Award. In 2004, Skyland Trail collaborated with the Emory University School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences to host the "Innovations in Mental Health" symposium. This event initiated a new round of Skyland Trail breakthroughs, including an on-site primary care clinic to integrate mental health treatment with medical care; creation of an outcomes research program to study client results over extended time spans; and development of a "best in class" employment program to help clients find and sustain a satisfying career path.
A major campus expansion and renovation was accomplished in 2007 with the opening of the Dorothy C. Fuqua Center in 2010, the renovation of the Health and Education Center and the purchase of green space adjacent to Skyland Trail South.
Partners in returning hope
The success of Skyland Trail in helping clients recover from mental illness reflects an outstanding professional staff, dedicated volunteer leadership and an expanding base of generous friends. More than 2,000 clients and their families have been served in the journey to independent living, healthy relationships and fulfilling quality of life.