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New mental health crisis diversion center opens to serve people in North Alabama

It's a place where law enforcement can take someone who is having a mental health crisis. Before this crisis diversion center opened in May, there were two options for people having a mental health crisis when law enforcement got involved. It was either go to the hospital or jail. Now, those people can get the help they need!

Posted: Jul 8, 2021 6:56 PM

There's a new crisis diversion center serving you right here in North Alabama.

It's a place where law enforcement can take someone who is having a mental health crisis.

Before this crisis diversion center opened in May, there were two options for people having a mental health crisis when law enforcement got involved. It was either go to the hospital or jail. Now, those people can get the help they need.

"We are specialists in mental health and so, having that staff, the nurse practitioners, the psychiatrists, the master's level therapists, the care managers on staff, 24/7 to attend to those mental health crises makes a huge difference," said Jeremy Blair, Wellstone Chief Executive Officer.

Blair told me this facility is a game changer when it comes to giving people in a mental health crisis a place to get treatment.

"Obviously jails are not equipped and nor is that their purpose. Hospitals do a wonderful job of attending to psychiatric crises, but they have a lot of other things going on and so if we can be able to take those folks that are in those crises and attend to those, I think everybody wins," said Blair.

Here's how it works: Law enforcement can bring someone to the facility. Then that person gets checked out by a registered nurse in this room to make sure their medical needs are met. After that, the person is seen by a therapist who can figure out the best form of treatment and determine if they might need to stay longer than 24 hours.

But this is only a temporary location for the center. This construction site is where the new crisis diversion center will be built. It's next to wellstone's current facility off Memorial Parkway.

"Huntsville is a growing community and even though we've got a lot of great jobs that are coming into the area, one in five people still struggle with mental health and so it doesn't matter what your degree is, it doesn't matter what your gender is, your race, those statistics are still going to apply, and so as we continue to grow as a community, resources like this are going to be vital," said Blair.

The center is part of the state's bigger focus on treating mental health. It's one of three centers across the state.

"It really should be a last resort for someone to have their civil rights taken away and committed to one of our state hospitals... And these centers out in the community will provide an opportunity to intervene early and often," said Kimberly Boswell, Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner.

Since this center opened in May, they have served fifteen people so far.

The brand-new facility is set to open in the Spring 2022.

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