Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: Grady’s mental health crisis, Chick-fil-A’s wildly popular app, and an ex-NFLer turned Carter Center intern

Plus, how Georgia’s corporate secrecy law harmed an Atlanta neighborhood and a mom who has turned her anger over the fatal shooting of her son into activism
Chris Borland
Former NFL linebacker Chris Borland, now a Carter Center intern

Al Bello / Getty Images

Mike King for Creative Loafing on Grady’s mental health crisis

King, a longtime journalist, has spent decades reporting on the plight on public hospitals. In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, A Spirit of Charity, he describes the stark state of Georgia’s broken mental-health system and the burden it places on hospitals like Grady:

If there is one medical condition where public health policy has failed the poor and uninsured most, it is in mental health care. Despite numerous scandals and journalistic investigations over the years, public officials have rarely put forth efforts to comprehensively deal with it. Think of the last time a political campaign—any political campaign at any level—had a platform promising to fix mental health financing or services for the poor.

What little progress that has been made on the subject has been to de-stigmatize chronic depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, substance abuse, and other conditions as something more than just bad behavior. But “mainstreaming” those disorders has largely been limited to patients who voluntarily submit to treatment and are covered by insurance when they need it. Underlining the point, in the 1980s and 1990s, as mental-health advocates began to make headway in demanding insurance companies cover psychiatric conditions the same way they cover other health issues, there was a surge in for-profit and private psychiatric hospitals opening to accommodate the demand.

Usually covered treatment began with a hospital stay to reestablish a medication regimen, followed by outpatient visits for psychotherapy, counseling, and medication compliance. How long the hospital stay was and how long outpatient care lasted depended largely on what was allowed under the patient’s benefit plan. This is still largely the model used today for insured patients who need help coping with their illness. But for the poor and uninsured, it is a much different world.

Read: Georgia’s Broken Mental-Health System

Tyler Estep for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a Georgia mother’s response to gun violence

Estep profiles a Grayson mother who lost her 14-year-old son in a horrific armed robbery in 2012. Four years later, she’s turned her anger into action as a gun control advocate:

“I never imagined it would be just me,” she says now. She still travels—Italy, Dubai, Las Vegas—but with friends, not Paul. She still goes to work, in the business office of a healthcare company, but there are no requests for Chick-fil-A on the way home. She doesn’t sit at her kitchen table anymore because Paul’s not there.

This is Stephanie Stone, the grieving mother whose life was changed by three bullets. But from those bullets another Stephanie Stone was born, too: Stephanie Stone, the activist for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. A strong, outspoken woman who spends her time counseling other survivors of gun violence and advocating for responsible gun ownership and an end to senseless violence. A woman who spent Mother’s Day weekend leading hundreds in a march across New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge.

“I never envisioned this to be my life,” she told the crowd, which included actresses Julianne Moore and Melissa Joan Hart. “I never imagined a life without my Paul. I didn’t ask to become a member of this club with a lifetime membership. However, I’m determined to make a difference as best I can, so there will not be any more new stories to share about innocent lives being stolen as a result of gun violence.”

Read: Mom On a Mission

Adam Chandler for The Atlantic on why Chick-fil-A’s app rose to number one in the App Store

The Cathy family’s fast-food empire isn’t exactly known for being a leader in technology. So how did Chick-fil-A’s app become more popular than Facebook’s? Chandler explains:

In late 2014, Taco Bell became the first major fast-food chain to roll out an order-ahead app. Finally, a Fourth Meal habitué could pay ahead, skip the line, join a rewards program, and creatively customize their Nachos Bell Grande without enraging a line of people behind them. Shortly after a very involved launch, Taco Bell even threw free Doritos Locos Tacos at mobile-app users. Despite all the fanfare, the Live Más app, while popular, was never the No. 1 free app in the Apple universe. Because, really, what fast-food ordering app would be?

Earlier this week, Chick-fil-A, the sometimes maligned and beloved chicken chain, introduced its One app, which offered all of the things that Taco Bell’s app does, plus the immediate promise of a free chicken sandwich just for downloading the app. In just three days, the app has been downloaded over a million times and has led the most downloaded free app iTunes tally board since Wednesday, muscling out the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and the (frankly, weird-sounding) multiplayer snake-battle game

So how did a (relatively small) chicken chain conquer narcissism and reptilian infatuation in the digital realm? In part, by courting families, a demographic that it pursues more vigorously and more successfully than most other chains. “82 percent of millennial parents say they would do almost anything to avoid long lines at fast food restaurants when they are with their children,” the company noted in a press release announcing the launch of the app. “In fact, nearly half (48 percent) said they would rather not eat at all than stand in a line.” For a company that does more sales-per-store than other quick-service restaurants by a long shot, this is particularly meaningful.

Read: Why Is Chick-fil-A’s App Number One in the App Store?

Mark Maske for the Washington Post on a pro-linebacker’s decision to leave the NFL behind

Former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is spending his summer as an intern at the Carter Center. As Maske explains, the successful rookie retired after just one season in the NFL due to his concerns about the potential for long-term brain damage:

Following his second day of work as an intern in the mental health program at the Carter Center last month, Chris Borland was driving home past a high school. On a field situated along the road, he saw a football team in the middle of a spring practice. Borland pulled over and watched for 10 minutes, not out of nostalgia for a game he left behind, but rather fixating on the players as their helmets collided repeatedly during a series of contact drills.

“It’s just unnecessary,” Borland said. “I think you can teach technique and scheme and everything without hitting your helmets together.”

As Borland watched that May practice, he found himself at the intersection of his former and current life. He began his 10-week unpaid internship at the nonprofit public policy center founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter about 14 months after he stunned the football-watching world with his abrupt retirement from the NFL. The decision came following a successful rookie season as a linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers and stemmed from wariness over the prospective consequences of brain injuries, particularly chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. All of that swirled in Borland’s mind as he watched those high school spring drills.

“I thought of a lot of different things,” Borland said last week, sitting in a Carter Center conference room. “The decision I made — when I see kids’ heads bang together, I think of [how] your brain sits unfastened in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid. And it’s gelatinous and it’s crashing against a hard skull. So that’s kind of an image I always have when football’s on.”

Read: The ‘Most Dangerous Man In Football’ Traded an NFL Career for an Internship

Willoughby Mariano for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how a LLC hurt an Atlanta neighborhood

Mariano, an investigative reporter, has previously reported on opportunistic investors scooping up cheap property in Atlanta’s blighted neighborhoods. In Ashview Heights, she tries to track down the owner of one such property. The state’s corporate secrecy laws, however, made her search extraordinarily difficult:

I had stopped by the west Atlanta house because I hoped my snooping would have made whoever was behind Ilimite nervous enough to fix it up. No such luck. The same condom wrapper from a week ago lay next to a mailbox post with no mailbox. The front door was still open, electrical sockets were still gouged out from the walls, and the same empty bottles of vodka lay on the living room floor.

You can be sentenced to jail for owning or operating place like this, although few have. (Buckhead speculator Rick Warren, sentenced for code violations last fall, is the exception, not the rule.)

There are many reasons why scofflaw owners escape consequences, but in the case of 1045 Ashby Grove and some 800 others pending before City of Atlanta code enforcement, it’s because police can’t find anyone to bust.

“You can’t put an LLC in jail. You need to have a person,” said police Maj. Barry Shaw, head of the city’s code enforcement office, when I visited their office behind Turner Field. I’m good at finding people, so I thought I’d hunt an owner down.

Read: How Legal Corporate Secrecy Harmed One Atlanta Neighborhood