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Ivey: WellStone Center ‘alleviates the burden to jails and hospitals’

HUNTSVILLE — Speaking Monday at the ribbon-cutting for WellStone Crisis Center, Gov. Kay Ivey said mental health care has been placed on the back burner for way too long.

“But it’s time, it’s been time, for Alabama to prioritize mental health services and I’m proud to say we’ve been doing just that,” said Ivey. “State mental health for all Alabama and its citizens!”

The 25,000 square-foot, $10 million WellStone Crisis Center will provide 24-hour, seven days a week available care. The state-of-the art emergency center at 4020 South Memorial Parkway is one of three crisis diversion centers in the state.

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Kimberly Boswell said the state’s efforts is the first significant investment in the system in 30 years.

“This year she invested in funding to increase to residential treatment programs for substance abuse disorders,” said Boswell. “This is the first the first increase in treatment beds since 1970.”

According to Wellstone, more than 8,000 people are taken to emergency rooms every year with mental health crises. The Huntsville facility is one of six centers open or opening soon in Alabama to provide mental health and substance abuse services.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” said Alabama House Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter. “There is no difference.”

WellStone is North Alabama’s largest behavioral health care provider. A nonprofit organization, WellStone has offices in Huntsville and Cullman and treats more than 13,000 clients per year.

“We are changing for the better how we deliver mental health care,” said WellStone CEO Jeremy Blair. “We look forward to many more exciting things to come, including breaking ground on a pediatric wing this spring.”

The center was funded by in part by the state, Madison County, and the cities of Huntsville and Madison. An additional $5 million is being raised through its “Be the Rock” capital campaign.

Meanwhile, WellStone’s longstanding annual “Beacon of Hope” fundraiser is in May.

The official opening date of the for the new WellStone Crisis Center will be announced in a few weeks.

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