By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Three new mental health crisis centers designed to provide immediate, around the clock care will be established in Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville, Gov. Kay Ivey said on Wednesday.
The providers and locations of the new crisis centers are 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.
“Expanding access to these crisis centers will provide a range of tools to divert individuals from emergency departments and jails to maximize behavioral health workforce, and most importantly improve the quality of life for Alabama families and communities,” Ivey said during a press conference.
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.
The centers will also provide walk-in care and integrated treatment for mental illness and substance abuse with a referral system for longer-term care if needed.
Each center will have mobile crisis teams made up of community law enforcement that will go into communities and deliver the person undergoing a crisis to the center if needed.
Ivey and the Legislature made improving mental health in the state a priority for the 2020 legislative session and approved an $18 million appropriation in the General Fund budget for the centers.
“We applaud the governor’s leadership and the Legislature’s investment to establish these three pilot centers and create a safe place for those in crisis, which will offer a new level of care in our state,” Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear said. “Behavioral health crisis services are one of the most effective tools within a statewide system of care to improve the lives of people with mental health or substance abuse disorders.”
Beshear said each center is expected to begin services in six months.
The state closed several mental health hospitals in 2012 and 2015 and probate judges and mental health care providers have said more space is needed to care for those in crisis.
The three awards were granted through a competitive bid and selection process.
Even though no center will be placed in Jefferson County, Alabama’s most populous county, Ivey said those seeking help there will be served.
“Those residents will certainly be served in one of the regions and plans are underway to continue this effort and these three crisis centers are just the beginning so we have hopes and plans for more,” Ivey said.