AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Serenity Behavioral Health Systems is getting a 4-million dollar national grant.

With the recent national grant, leaders at Serenity Behavioral Health say they plan to expand their access to the communities they serve.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has awarded Serenity with 4-million dollars to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.

“For so many years, there’s been a stigma attached to behavioral health care,” said Charles D. Williamson, CEO of Serenity Behavioral Health Systems. “Not really giving parity with physical health care.”

Now, Williamson says, the government is putting necessary attention on a great need. 

The new funds will allow an expansion of Serenity’s services, which offers 24/7 coverage to those in need and helps take pressure off of hospitals and law enforcement.

“There’s probably 50 additional staff that we’ll be bringing on in the next four years,” said Williamson. “So it enables us to have things like extended hours for services we provide.”

Williamson says the funding will help remove barriers to access. They’re establishing a mobile van to go out into communities where it’s harder to get their services.

They will also be able to ensure they can serve everyone, no matter their income.

“We are a safety net provider,” said Williamson. “So we turn no one away, no matter what. So this continues to strengthen that.”

Williamson tells us that additional state funding will also allow them to build a new crisis center, which will allow them to increase their patient bed count and number of observation chairs.

“I have clients that will come up and tells us, you know, ‘you really helped me out’, ‘you brought me out of a bad situation’, ‘ I Was addicted to drugs’, ‘I was homeless, didn’t know what to do next, didn’t have a job, but serenity stepped up…but Serenity stepped up’,” said Williamson. “So, that is just immensely fulfilling.”

Williamson tells us that expansion plans are already underway. They intend to break ground on the new crisis center in the spring of 2024.