Closure of Alabama Psychiatric Services impacts homeless and at-risk community

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The impending closure of Alabama Psychiatric Services has impacted around 30,000 patients across the state — among them, the homeless and at risk.

Clete Wetli, Executive Director of First Stop, says their mission is to help Huntsville’s homeless transition into stable, independent living. That sometimes means helping them get psychiatric care. Now Wetli worries the closure of APS threatens to derail positive steps many formerly homeless residents have made toward that goal.

“APS is one of the service providers we relied on here at First Stop because there are very few mental health care providers in our area,” said Wetli. “What we’re worried about is not only the patients that need care, but we’re worried about patients currently receiving care. There are a lot of people who maintain stable independent living because they’re on psychotropic medications that help them maintain stability.”

Without treatment, Wetli worries some could fall back into homelessness, as resources continue to be cut.

“What we’re finding in Alabama is mental health treatment is simply not a priority. The budget for mental health for the state budget by 35%, they’re closing state run mental health hospitals, and now we’re seeing Alabama Psychiatric Services closing its doors. So the big question is where are people going to get mental health treatment that’s affordable for them?”

A spokesperson for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama says the insurance agency is working with APS staff, and encouraging them to stay on as a provider.

“We are disappointed about these closures and are doing everything we can to assist our members during this transition. The appropriate transition of care for our impacted members is of utmost importance to us.   Our behavioral health vendor, New Directions, and APS’ related company, Managed Health Care Administration (MHCA), are working diligently on ensuring that patient care is not disrupted. “

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