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Inside look at new Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority crisis center

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - For years, families and law enforcement in the River Region have faced a major problem finding a facility with available bed space for those struggling with mental health.

Mobile crisis teams have been able to serve families and law enforcement where they are, but now a new diversion center for mental health is under construction in Montgomery with the goal of helping more people.

Renovations are underway at a former Auto-Owners Insurance building off Carmichael Road, which will soon become home to the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority’s (MAMHA) new Crisis Center.

“This will be serving four counties. We’ll be serving Montgomery, Autauga, Elmore and Lowndes counties,” said MAMHA Executive Director Donna Leslie. “The purpose of this center is to really give people an alternative from having to maybe be picked up and arrested or having to go to the emergency room if they are experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Once complete, the new diversion center will be open 24/7 to families and law enforcement, and will help individuals looking for bed space for their loved one. It will also give law enforcement in the area options when dealing with someone in a mental health crisis.

“One of the main problems we really have with mental health is that it’s exploding, and one of the main issues that I face and law enforcement faces is that there are not enough beds,” said Montgomery County Probate Judge JC Love. “And so we’re really excited about this center coming online because then we have the ability now be able to evaluate more people.”

The goal is to limit the number of arrests and visits to hospital emergency rooms for those in crisis.

“If they’re in crisis, they may not need to be admitted, and if they are evaluated in a setting that they can feel comfortable in and with the right team of professionals, half the time we think we can avoid having to admit the person in the first place,” Leslie said.

The facility will offer 10 observation beds where patients can spend up to 23 hours and 16 beds where patients can stay for up to seven days.

“And if someone’s really needing to be stabilized longer than that we can transfer them to either one of our crisis residential beds or with one of our hospital partners,” Leslie said.

The crisis center is expected to be complete and operational by December.

The facility was made possible through an $18 million grant from Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature. The diversion center is one of three planned for the state. Others are planned to be located in Mobile and Huntsville.

MAMHA offers help now through their After-Hours Mobile Crisis Team, a program they will continue to use along with the diversion center come December.

For families in crisis, or law enforcement in need of placement for a person in crisis, contact MAMHA at 334-279-7830, email at mamha@mamha.org or visit the website at www.mamha.org.

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