DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — The state of Alabama received $2,120,279,417.00 in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The state further divided that money, giving Morgan County $23.2 million.

On Tuesday, the Morgan County Commission approved the allocation of funding for several community organizations from the ARPA money. The total divided amongst the four organizations is $1,175,000.

  • Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama: $600,000 for the purpose of constructing a new inpatient mental health facility.
  • Morgan County/Decatur Farmer’s Market: $500,000 for the purpose of constructing a new facility.
  • Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County: $50,000 for the purpose of enhancing a community outreach program to provide medical care to low-to-moderate income households.
  • Morgan County Child Advocacy Center: $25,000 to assist with trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to children who are victims of abuse or have witnessed domestic violence or homicide.

Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long spoke at the meeting addressing members of the organizations.

“Each one of y’all’s agencies has made an investment already, and we’re gonna be there to partner with you,”
Long stated. “Just know that we really appreciate what y’all do, and sometimes we don’t have the funds to get you what you want, but fortunately right now we do have some.”

News 19 spoke with two of the organizations on the receiving end of the funding.

Lisa Coleman, executive director for the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama, said, “we are super excited, this is a big deal for Morgan County and North Alabama.”

Coleman explained that the center will be using the funding to construct a 16-bed crisis residential facility. The inpatient facility has been in the works since at least 2018.

Coleman said the pandemic has driven up the construction costs.

“Before the pandemic, this building was somewhere around $2.4 million dollars,” she said. “Today, we’re looking at over $6 million.”

Coleman explained that the facility will also be using grant funding and other allocations to help with construction. She said the facility is much needed, as the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama has seen more people during the pandemic.

“We’re seeing more people than we were prior to the pandemic, absolutely,” she told News 19.

Coleman also explained that there are only four other facilities in the state that offer the inpatient services that the new building will offer.

“Four of these facilities were built in Alabama, one in Jasper, one in Anniston, one in Huntsville, and one in Cullman,” Coleman continued.

“North Central Alabama, over to the Franklin/Lauderdale area we did not get one, so we’re really excited.” Coleman said that having a facility close-by to where a patient has family is necessary. “This is so important to our communities and patients and their families.”

The Morgan County/Decatur Farmer’s Market will be getting the second highest amount of funding. It is set to receive $500,000.

Lisa Ritch, chairman of the market’s board, said the funding will be used for a project that is seven years in the making.

“We are going to raze the current farmers market pavilion and re-build,” Ritch told News 19.

Similar to the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama, the ARPA funding won’t fund the entire project, but it is a start.

Ritch said she estimates the total cost of the project to be around $3 million.

She said the Farmer’s Market has a long history in Morgan County.

“Our farmers market is one of the largest in the state, it was established in 1937, and it has been running consecutively ever since,” Ritch said. “We’re one of like three in the entire state that’s open 5 days a week once season starts.”

Ritch stated the project, “benefits everybody, who doesn’t love a fresh tomato?”