Huntsville pursues a 24/7 mental health clinic

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A 24/7 mental health crisis center could be coming to Huntsville.

If you have any physical health situation, you can get treatment almost immediately at walk-in clinics, but for those who have a mental health situation have nowhere to turn.

The CEO of WellStone Behavioral Clinic, Jeremy Blair is partnering with the Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear.

Blair says a mental health crisis center is what the community of Huntsville and the state of Alabama needs to provide adequate care to those in a mental health crisis. He imagines a 24/7 walk-in clinic for those with mental health issues to find care as easily as those who walk into the doctor to fight the flu.

This is not a new system, but it would be new to Alabama.

Commissioner Blair says that national research has been done and for every $1 spent on a crisis center, the state sees a return of $2.16.

Blair says law enforcement or family members would be able to bring people to this clinic. Right now, police are forced to either take a mental health crisis patient to jail or to the hospital. This facility would bring a third option.

"It would keep them out of jail, therefore it could potentially keep them out of prison," says Blair. "There is some trickle-down effect. It keeps them out of our emergency rooms which can so often become overburdened with people who are in psychiatric crisis and we don't have a ton of in-patient psychiatric beds in this state."

Blair says it is not yet a guarantee, and the challenge is finding funding. Right now, the plan is for the money to come from the Department of Mental Health budget.