MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Since 1990, Alabama’s suicide rate has surpassed the national average, the latest being 16.2 people per 100,000 in 2016 versus the national average of 13.9, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
To help people in crisis, the state is looking to create three mental health emergency centers.
These facilities will be part of a pilot program that will serve rural and urban communities. For many people struggling with mental illnesses, there’s no real help in an emergency situation.
“The jails and the emergency rooms are now where people are taken, who really don’t need to be arrested and don’t need to be in an emergency room,” said Lynn Beshear, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health.
Beshear said these crisis facilities will help relieve many of the counties' jails.
“So often they will have to charge them with a low-level offense so that they can take them to jail, frankly, for their own protection,” she said.
Department officials say patients in a mental health crisis area boarded three times longer in the emergency room. They say 75% of women in jail have one or more substance abuse diagnoses.
People like Beverly Toodle, who work with mental health patients hope the centers will focus on substance abuse as well.
“They do not like the medications or what the medications do to them, so they turn to alcohol and drugs to relieve the symptoms of mental illness,” Toodle said.
The crisis centers will be able to provide things like temporary observation beds, or even telehealth visits that can be done through talking to a doctor through the computer.
Gov. Kay Ivey is asking lawmakers for $18 million to fund the crisis centers. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon supports the idea of the crisis centers.
“And to me, I think that’s a huge step forward, especially with our first responders, our law enforcement community and in families that have to deal with this,” McCutcheon said.