HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama is taking steps forward when it comes to mental health care. Governor Kay Ivey and Kimberly Boswell, the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health joined local officials to cut the ribbon on the new WellStone facility on Monday.
The new building sits next door to the existing WellStone facility, off of Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.
The new facility offers group meeting rooms, counseling rooms and 16 bedrooms. WellStone CEO Jeremy Blair said while the facility has 16 beds currently, it was built in a way that it could expand to hold up to 24.
He also said that it is time we take mental health seriously.
“We can no longer separate our mental health from our physical health, they are so one-in-the-same,” Blair said.
“When we neglect our mental health, eventually we’re going to neglect our physical health and so we’ve got to do a better job of understanding and realizing that,” he continued.
The new WellStone facility is part of the Alabama Crisis System of Care, an effort to bring mental health resources to every corner of the state.
Blair said the state has been “playing catch up for a few years” after losing funding as result of the 2008 Recession. However, he said the State’s support is a great step forward. “I do believe we’re getting there,” he added.
Kimberly Boswell, the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, said the facilities part of the Alabama Crisis System of Care offer a new approach to what the state previously had.
“I think we needed a different type of mental health bed,” Commissioner Boswell said. “Before this, in our system, really people had to have their civil rights taken away through a civil commitment to get services from us.”
Boswell said the services the new WellStone facility will provide will be a game changer for North Alabama.
“Having a facility that is a 24/7, 365 day a year facility where people can walk in where law enforcement can drop off folks who are in a mental health crisis makes all the difference in access to care,” Boswell said.
After the ribbon cutting, Alabama Governor, Kay Ivey received a tour of the new facility.
She stressed the importance of giving people the mental health they need, rather than putting them in jail.
“It will aid jails and hospitals throughout the state by alleviating the burden of having to house and care for individuals in need of mental health services,” said Governor Ivey.
The new facility at 4020 Memorial Parkway SW will also aid in 988 calls.
Jeremy Blair said they expect to start treating patients there sometime in the “next couple of weeks” as they finish the final touches on the building.