The Pickens County Training Center, later known as the Burnt Mountain Center, Inc., was founded in March of 1973 in Jasper, Pickens County, Georgia. On July 1, 1974, the service area was expanded to include the southern half of Gilmer County which increased the potential population from twenty to forty clients.
The stated purpose of the center was to provide “educational instruction and vocational training,” for children and youth “living in southern Appalachia.” Prior to the opening of the center, they were “relegated to either distant institutional care or isolated home situations.” The center represented a first opportunity to “acquire formal instruction of any kind.”
The objectives included: a comprehensive developmental disabilities-mental retardation day care and training program for moderately, severely and profoundly retarded (developmentally disabled); an alternative for those not served in special education or vocational rehabilitation programs due to measurable I.Q.s (Intelligence Quotient) below 55, or mentally retarded developmentally disabled with behavioral problems as a result of exclusion or removal from special education or vocational rehabilitation programs; and as an alternative to institutionalization.
It was anticipated that in order to meet the individual’s “existent and projected” potential, a facility equipped to serve at least 40 clients was needed. At that time the program was located in one room, in the basement of the Tate School, in Tate, Georgia. Shortly thereafter it was expanded to include an adult program located at the Dot’s bakery, across from the old Library near the Jasper Elementary School. Although this structure was in poor condition, it was slightly improved through the cooperative effort of staff, clients, and concerned community citizens prior to being occupied. Due to the general inadequacy of both locations, a new facility was proposed. Such would allow a Pickens County Training Center to provide “day care and training for all mentally retarded children and adults in Pickens and Gilmer (part) counties not eligible for other community-based services and not requiring institutional care.”
During this period, it was determined that until the State Department of Education could establish sufficient classes for moderately school age children, the Training Center would serve them. At that time, the Pickens County Board of Education had not taken action to incorporate “trainable mentally retarded” children into the school systems instructional programming. It was further determined that the Center would not serve the mildly retarded unless they had been excluded from public school special education classes or vocational rehabilitation training programs.
The proposed center enjoyed broad-based community support. The Jasper Banking Company agreed to provide a loan covering 70% of the total construction costs. The Pickens Area Vocational-Technical School “enthusiastically agreed to help undertake the construction as a live class project,” to the extent to which they were equipped and able. A local Real Estate Development firm donated one acre of land and a local contractor agreed to provide the grade work on a gratis basis. The Pickens County Jaycees and Jaycett organizations provided financial support, and Pickens Association for Retarded Citizens entered into an ambitious fund drive to finance the project. It was proposed that the new facility contain at least 4600 square feet of “classroom and training space” to accommodate 40 mentally retarded adults and children. It was determined that the cost not exceed $60,000. In 1984, in conjunction with a change in program direction, a Small Business Administration Loan was procured to add a workshop to the existing structure.
By 1992, both the original building and the workshop structures were badly in need of repair. A comprehensive joint community effort resulted in an accessible and well-equipped Center. Financially, this was accomplished through a federal community block grant award to Pickens County for renovations to the Center. The result was a low interest, long term construction loan in the amount of $355,644. In addition, Pickens County, the City of Jasper, and the Burnt Mountain Center combined their resources and raised $10,000 matching money in support of the project.
Like many programs throughout Georgia during that period, the service delivery emphasis of the Burnt Mountain Center shifted many times. At its inception, both children and adults were served in a congregate setting. Eventualy school age children were transferred to public school settings leaving only adult clients. During the early years, the Center’s program was structured on an educational model, emphasizing reading and money skills. The Center changed focus going from school age children and adults to adults only, to adults and non school age children, and back to adults only. At one point in time, the Center began making furniture and bringing subcontracted work in from outside sources. By the early 1980′s the Center had one of the most successful workshops of its kind in Georgia. In fact it was so successful, that client wages exceeded those allowed by the United States Department of Labor. The fact was that through the workshop and other Center contracts, the Clients were “making too much money.” The law allowed only 0% to 50% of the minimum wage earned, and many of the Clients exceeded that cap. Ultimately in response to these considerations, the workshop program was revised and an ambitious supported employment program was initiated. Shortly thereafter, the BMC received a contract from the State of Georgia to deliver supported employment services leaving other agencies to assume responsibility for preschool children ages four and above. The preschool children had primarily been served in order to help families procure needed services so that the children had an opportunity to reach age appropriate developmental milestones. In addition the Center housed speech, occupational and physical therapy programs for the preschoolers. As previously noted, the configuration of individuals served at the Center changed through the Center’s history, in order to be responsive to needs within the community as well as philosophical trends nationwide.
The adult program which evolved over time consisted of two components. One a Center-based Workshop where work was brought in from various companies throughout the area and clients performed work oriented tasks. The other component of the Center’s adult program was Supported Employment. Supported Employment contracts were procured so that the adult clients who were capable went to work on full or part time jobs in the community. This was done with Center support and in most cases they did not return to the Center for any of their service needs. Transportation assistance did continue to be a critical service. Although the Center to this day has both programs, few Clients don’t have at least some opportunity to work outside the Center. Ultimately the services included comprehensive vocational evaluation services, work adjustment and job readiness, center and work sites, supported employment, and day habilitation.
Presently, the Burnt Mountain Center provides consumers with an array of services to help meet their individual specific needs and facilitate their highest level of functioning and independence for which they are capable. BMC serves consumers with severe moderate and mild mental retardation. Clients range chronologically from approximately 19 to 65 years. Clients primarily reside in Pickens and Gilmer, or on the fringe thereof. To be eligible for services at BMC, clients must go through an intake and evaluation process that is carried out by Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. All of our clients must have a diagnosis of Mental Retardation prior to the age of 18 to be eligible for services. Burnt Mountain Center is funded primarily through the Georgia Medicaid Waiver Program and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.