Jeremy Blair’s vision came true on Monday.
The CEO of Wellstone Behavioral Health in Huntsville has long recognized the need for emergency care for people in a mental health crisis and has built a system of crisis centers throughout Alabama to meet that need I have been working for years to do so.
On Monday, Blair welcomed Gov. Kay Ivey and mental health commissioner Kim Boswell to Wellstone’s campus for a ribbon-cutting outside the facility that once seemed out of reach.
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The $10 million facility is located just north of the Wellstone campus on Memorial Parkway and Golf Road in Huntsville. This one has 16 beds, with the ability to expand to 24 beds, offering what Blair said was a decent alternative to the previously darker options of prisons and hospital emergency departments.
In addressing the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ivy pointed to former Gov. Larryn Wallace, who led the first efforts to address mental health care in Alabama. Since then, Ivy said those efforts have largely been forgotten.
“For the last 30 years, it’s been on the backburner for too long,” the governor said.
Legislative funding has opened or will soon open crisis centers in Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, in addition to the Huntsville location.
Congress also secured funding to build facilities in Tuscaloosa and Dothan.
In Huntsville, Wellstone received $5 million. The rest of her $5 million is raised through donations and local government funding.
“There is no doubt that this center will change lives for the better,” said Ivey.
The event brought together seven state legislators and two mayors, in addition to the governor and state mental health commissioner. And the theme that ran through the event was that mental health should be considered as important as physical health.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” said House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville. “No difference.”
Events such as Mondays and facilities such as Crisis Centers have done a great deal to eliminate negative stigma around mental health efforts, Blair said.
“I think it says a lot that Governor Ivey is here today,” Blair said. “As leader Ledbetter argued, mental health care and physical health are one and the same and can no longer be separated. Ignoring mental health ultimately means ignoring physical health. We have to understand that and do a better job of making it happen. seeks its help.”
Blair also said Wellstone plans to build a 24-bed children’s ward next spring.
“Madison County doesn’t have pediatric beds right now,” Blair said. “That way we can think about how we can impact families in the area.”