By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear is retiring this month after leading the agency since July 2017.
Kim Boswell, currently Beshear’s chief of staff, will be appointed commissioner, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday.
“When Lynn was appointed, I knew that she would approach her role always thinking of what is best for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in a written statement. “She has created a collaborative team approach within the Alabama Department of Mental Health to solve intricate problems regarding delivery of services for mental illness, substance abuse disorder and intellectual disability. I am truly grateful for her service to our state and wish her best in her next chapter.”
Ivey credited Beshear with several initiatives to increase Alabamians’ access to mental health services, including Stepping Up Alabama, which uses the national model to reduce the numbers of individuals in jails with mental illness. Alabama is the only state to expand the goal to include emergency rooms and substance use disorder, Ivey’s office said. It is anticipated that a case management component of Stepping Up will be in place in all 67 counties by the end of the 2022 fiscal year.
Separately, three mental health crisis centers were announced as crisis diversion centers in the 2020 fiscal year to provide immediate care for individuals who may otherwise be placed in jails or emergency rooms. State leaders in October announced the locations and providers for the three centers: AltaPointe Health in Mobile, the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority and WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville.
These centers will be designated places for law enforcement, first responders and hospitals to take individuals experiencing an acute mental health crisis instead of a local jail or emergency room. The Mobile center will have 36 beds, the Montgomery center will have 31 beds and the Huntsville center will contain 54 beds.
Both the Huntsville and Mobile centers are in the process of building brand new facilities and the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority is still reviewing details about building a new facility.
“It has been an honor to serve as the commissioner of the department,” Beshear said. “I am stepping into the next chapter of my life proud of the accomplishments of the department and am incredibly honored to have worked with such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others.”
Boswell has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities. She has previously served as the ADMH’s associate commissioner for administration and director of human resources.
“(Boswell) has spent the entirety of her professional career devoted to helping struggling individuals and I appreciate her willingness to serve in this new capacity,” Ivey said. “Her background as a mental health provider as well as administrator makes her uniquely qualified.”