Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday marked the opening of a new mental health crisis center in Birmingham, one of six such centers in the state intended to address a dire service shortage.
The centers provide care to a person experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis and are intended to take the pressure off emergency rooms and jails which often become the default place to take a person. The Craig Crisis Care Center in Birmingham has 32 temporary observation beds and 16 extended observation beds.
Alabama lawmakers provided funding for the six centers around the state.
Ivey called the facility a "game changer" for mental health care.
"This is a major step in improving mental health care for our citizens. They can get immediate attention and care in a place that has got well-trained people," Ivey said.
Jim Crego, executive director of the JBS Mental Health Authority, told WVTM-TV that the facility was an important start in expanding services for adults.
"I think we are going to demonstrate that the need is far greater than 48 beds," Crego told the station. "I hope the Department of Mental Health will be watching and the Legislature and the governor, and see that when they have another round of funding three or four years down the road that Birmingham might be eligible for a second facility like this."
He said a similar center is needed for children.
The facility is named for Dr. Richard Craig, the longtime director of JBS Mental Health Authority. WVTM reported that the center will open in several weeks.