Guests: Together, we must prioritize Alabama’s mental health crisis


No one is immune to the impact of mental health or substance use, especially in Alabama. In 2021, Alabamians identified mental health and substance use as the second biggest health issue in the state (Alabama Public Health). With approximately 214,000 adults in Alabama suffering from serious mental illness, our state has recognized the need for additional resources to address this crisis (NAMI Alabama).

As leaders in crisis care, we have seen firsthand how increased funding and resources support healthier communities. Together, we want to shed light on our state’s commitment to improving access to quality mental health and addictions treatment.

Historically, there have been few options for people in mental health or addiction crisis. Sometimes boarding in hospital emergency departments or detention in prisons become the only options, and neither can provide the acute services needed. To address this problem, Governor Ivey and the state legislature recently allocated funds to the Alabama Department of Mental Health to establish the Alabama Crisis Care System, which brings together community, medical , prevention and intervention.

Over the past two sessions, the Alabama Legislature has allocated funds to create four new crisis centers across the state: AltaPointe Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Mobile, Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority Crisis Center in Montgomery, WellStone Emergency Crisis Center Services in Huntsville and JBS Mental Health. Authority Crisis Center in Birmingham. This year, mental health care is again a priority, and two additional crisis centers are recommended for funding in Tuscaloosa and Houston counties.

Crisis centers provide a stronger continuum of care in the mental health community, providing an essential link between those who need care and the organizations that provide that care. As a dedicated place for communities, law enforcement, first responders and families to take people in mental health or addiction crisis, each facility provides rapid stabilization and helps connect people to hospital care or ambulatory devices they need, all in an appropriate setting. Crisis centers provide immediate care and ongoing support to Alabamians, regardless of their ability to pay.

In addition to providing appropriate care, crisis centers alleviate unnecessary burdens on essential community resources. Crisis centers will help reduce the number of arrests and hospitalizations due to mental health or addiction crises by decreasing the number of people detained in local jails and admitted to hospitals.

These centers will save law enforcement and emergency responders significant time by allowing them to spend more time protecting the community, maximizing the use of these valuable resources.

We’re asking every community in the state to support Alabama’s crisis care system and learn more about how these resources lead to healthier, safer communities by providing access to the “right care, at the right time, in the right place”.

Anthony Reynolds is director of the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Crisis Care Project. Jim Crego is executive director of JBS Mental Health Authority. Tuerk Schlesinger is president and CEO of AltaPointe Health. Donna Leslie, LPC-S is executive director of the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority. Jeremy Blair is Executive Director of WellStone.


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