WellStone hosts state mental health commissioner, provides tour of temporary facilities

Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – WellStone Crisis Diversion Center, a nonprofit mental health facility, funded in part by the state of Alabama is set to open next spring.

But in the meantime, the mental health staff showed News 19 how its temporary crisis facility operates.

“So as part of the contract award, we needed to get something up and going within six months and so we took some existing buildings and really kind of retrofitted them to serve the purpose of this project,” said WellStone CEO Jeremy Blair. “Come next spring we’ll have a brand new 25,000, square-foot building designed specifically for the crisis diversion center.”

At intake, the needs of people in crisis, who are called clients, are assessed and they can either receive temporary care or extended care. All care is voluntary.

News 19 is told about 15 people have gone through crisis treatment since the temporary facility opened on May 2.

“The primary purpose for those who are in a crisis to voluntarily come and see us and get the help they need,” said Blair. “We understand that crises don’t just happen Monday through Friday from eight to five. So having that after-hours component is a huge win for the community.”

The state department of mental health’s commissioner said facilities like WellStone’s are important for addressing the problem at its root, and hopefully before a mental crisis turns into a mental illness.

“Just like if you receive a diagnosis of cancer, you don’t want to wait until it’s at stage four before you get treatment,” said Kimberly Boswell. “Our state hospitals are sort of like that stage for the system. And these centers out in the community will provide an opportunity to intervene early and often so that people don’t have to reach that stage four of having their civil rights taken away from them to get treatment.”

For a growing city like Huntsville Blair said his staff is trying to be proactive.

“One in five people still struggling with mental illness,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your degree is, it doesn’t matter what your gender is or your race, those statistics are still going to apply. So as we continue to grow as a community, resources like this are going to be vital.”

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