Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery picked for mental health crisis centers

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Governor Kay Ivey announced today that three mental health crisis centers, suggested during her speech on the state in February, will be in Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.

The centers are designed to stabilize people with mental illness and drug problems and to fill gaps in services that sometimes leave few options other than emergency rooms and prisons in hospitals.

Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear said the centers would provide short-term life-saving care for people with mental illness who need a place to stabilize but now sometimes end up in jail because law enforcement officers have limited options. The centers will operate 24/7, 365 days a year, and they will each run full-time teams for mobile crises.

“They will be staffed by mental and physical health professionals,” said Beshear. “This care is based on recovery. It requires short term stays of a few hours or up to a few days to provide treatment, support, and connection to care in the community. “

“These centers will make a life-saving difference for those in need, their families, and ultimately our state and our communities,” said Beshear.

The three vendors selected were AltaPointe Health in Mobile, the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority, and WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville. They were selected through a call for proposals and through an evaluation and selection process.

Beshear said the centers are expected to offer services in about six months. AltaPointe Health in Mobile and WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will be serving in temporary facilities and building new facilities. The Montgomery Mental Health Agency is still reviewing whether a new facility is needed.

Lawmakers approved $ 18 million for the centers in the Mental Health Department’s budget. The centers were part of a series of mental health initiatives that lawmakers and state officials discussed before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the legislature earlier this year.

The crisis centers will be a designated place for communities, law enforcement, first responders and hospitals to host a person who is in a mental crisis. The centers will include walk-through access for individuals and access to hospital and law enforcement emergency departments to transfer people in need of emergency care, including short-term admission, drug management and case management.

The centers will connect patients to ongoing behavioral health services for long-term care as needed.

“When these facilities are open and fully staffed, these centers will become a safe haven for people with mental health problems,” said Ivey. “Here they can be stabilized and treated without being taken to prison or hospital.”

Beshear and House Majority Chairman Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, accompanied Ivey to today’s Capitol steps announcement. Ledbetter has advanced efforts to improve mental health in Alabama after expressing concern to the governor last year.

Beshear said AltaPointe will provide Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Monroe and Washington Counties with 21 new beds, including 15 temporary observation beds, as well as a rest area for people in crisis who need immediate resources and support. Beshear called this an early intervention approach to care.

The Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority will work with the East Alabama Mental Health Authority in Opelika and the East Central Alabama Mental Health Authority in Troy to serve 11 wards, Beshear said. The Montgomery facility will have 21 new beds, including 10 temporary observation beds and day beds.

In addition to state funding, WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will receive $ 2.1 million from local government agencies, Beshear said. The new facility will have 39 beds, including 15 for temporary observation and 24 for extended observation.

Ledbetter said he told Ivey at a meeting between the governor and lawmakers last year that the state was “failing miserably on mental health.” He said Ivey asked him if he would make an effort to change this and Ledbetter said he would.

He said Beshear and members of her team in the mental health department, as well as both party lawmakers, probate judges, law enforcement agencies, school principals and school mental health counselors were involved in the effort that led to today’s announcement.

Ledbetter said the announcement of the crisis centers was cause for celebration, but said, “Alabama has many more miles to go to provide quality mental health care to its citizens we want to serve.”

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