3 mental health crisis care centers to be established in Alabama

Sen. Garlan Gudger, left, and Rep. Randall Shedd, right (Office of Sen. Garlan Gudger)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives and Senate on Thursday adopted a joint resolution for the immediate creation and funding of three 24-hour crisis care centers throughout the state. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview and Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman. The centers will serve as alternatives to hospital and emergency room visits by providing suicide prevention and other mental health services on an immediate, walk-in basis. These centers will be established in fiscal year 2021.

The resolution was unveiled as part of a legislative package with four other pieces of legislation designed to expand and improve mental health care in the state of Alabama. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, along with majority and minority leaders in both chambers including Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R- Anniston and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia were present, along with several other bipartisan leaders.

“It is a great day for the state of Alabama in recognizing the need for all mental health patients, extended family and caregivers that need help in this health care issue,” said Gudger. “Today is the start of a journey that the state begins traveling after the Department of Mental Health was cut over 60% in their budget in 2010. This journey begins to correct the repercussions that we have felt in all our communities and will open a door to funding and the support by the full body of the Legislature.”

The resolution came about through a mental health initiative request made by Governor Kay Ivey during her 2020 State of the State Address earlier this month.

According to the resolution, individuals suffering from mental health crises often ultimately need emergency medical care or find themselves in the criminal justice system. Behavioral health crisis services have emerged as effective tools to improve the lives of people struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.

“I believe establishing mental health crisis centers will be crucial to addressing the mental health crisis in our state,” said Shedd. “Families and law enforcement can get help rather than jail or a hospital ER for a person experiencing a (mental illness) situation”

There are currently no crisis diversion centers located within Alabama, but this resolution will establish three regional centers to serve at a physical location on a 24-hour basis.

Crisis diversion centers will provide intensive levels of care in a centralized location while also providing community-based resources that serve the needs of urban, suburban and rural communities in a cost-effective manner. These centers will provide emergency departments and law enforcement agencies the ability to transfer individuals to the centers for crisis care, and utilize several practices such as short-term admission, medication management, case management, discharge planning and referrals to ongoing behavioral health care services.

Gudger said he appreciates the Legislature’s support and attention to this issue, Governor Ivey’s funding of the initiative in her 2020 budget, the Alabama Department of Mental Health for its research and work and Ledbetter for leading the committee.

“Lastly, thanks to all the committee members including Scott Stadthagen and Randall Shedd for working with the House to sponsor resolutions in the House,” Gudger said.