Stepping Up

Approximately two million times each year, people who have serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation. Almost three-quarters of these adults have drug and alcohol use problems. The Stepping Up Initiative is a national program with the goal to reduce the numbers of individuals in jails with mental illness. It is managed at the county level to establish effective partnerships across individuals in law enforcement, local governmental entities, elected officials, mental health and healthcare providers, courts and other partners to meet the goal.


Currently fifteen counties in Alabama have passed the Stepping Up resolution, along with 498 counties in the nation, to work with local law enforcement, mental health providers and advocates.


To expand Stepping Up Alabama and to receive a related grant, ADMH requested community mental health centers provide a plan for case management services and establish a sustainable process and plan to reduce the numbers of people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders in local jails and emergency rooms in their communities. The grant amount of $50,000 will assist the community mental health centers in fulfilling the requirements and expanding partnerships and resources to realize the mission and goals of the Stepping Up Initiative.


The awardees for fiscal year 2020 are:

Altapointe Health

East Alabama Mental Health Center

Indian Rivers Mental Health Center

Mental Health Center of North Alabama Inc.

West Alabama Mental Health Center


The awardees for fiscal year 2019 are:

Wellstone Behavioral Health: Huntsville and Cullman locations

Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center

CED Mental Health Center

Marshall-Jackson 310 Agency

Mental Health Center of North Alabama


If continued progress is made and an investment by all partners is sustained, communities can benefit from:

  • Increased treatment for individuals living with mental illness
  • More efficient use of public funds
  • Less strain on jails and law enforcement
  • Increased peace of mind for families and the community
  • Healthier community members
  • Greater prosperity for the entire community

First Episode of Psychosis

Alabama’s First Episode of Psychosis (FEP) program addresses youth and young adults experiencing symptoms of early psychosis. The program, operated by JBS Mental Health Authority is located in Birmingham and is aptly named NOVA. This program utilizes well-researched, and evidenced based practices to help youth and young adults recover, stay on track in school, locate and maintain employment, and strengthen their relationships with family and support networks. The targeted parameters for the NOVA program are individuals aged 15-25 years experiencing their first episode of psychosis, those residing within the service area (Birmingham City, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Homewood, and Hoover) and a willingness to participate in the program for a period of two years. The FEP program provides a coordinated array of recovery-oriented services and supports to the individual and their family. Services include family support through Multi-Family Groups, Youth and Family Peer Supports, Supported Employment and Education (using the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model), Case Management, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Low Dose Anti-Psychotic medications, as needed. The coordinated care approach emphasizes shared decision-making and working with individuals to reach their recovery goals. The NOVA program collaborates with other state agencies to include the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, as well as the state IPS programs as a means of meeting the clients overall Vocational and Educational needs.


NAMI. (July, 2016). What is Early and First-Episode Psychosis? [Brochure].

School-Based Mental Health

The Alabama Department of Mental Health has expanded the School Based Mental Health Services Program since its inception in 2010. The goal of the School-Based Mental Health Services (SBMH) collaboration between Alabama Department of Mental Health and its providers and the Alabama State Department of Education and Alabama’s local education agencies is to ensure that children and adolescents, both general and special education, enrolled in local school systems have access to high quality mental health prevention, early intervention and treatment services. The aim is to achieve greater integration of mental health services between the mental health centers and the public schools and to increase the utilization of evidence-based practices. The integration of these services will foster continuity of care and ensure sustained gains in academic and developmental domains for children, youth, and their families.

Nine mental health centers were added with the $500,000 appropriation in FY19. We now have a total of 61 school systems and 16 community mental health centers participating in School-Based Mental Health. The recently added MHCs work with the following school systems:

  • North Central Mental Health – Hartselle City Schools
  • AltaPointe – Randolph County Schools and Roanoke City Schools
  • Wellstone – Madison County Schools
  • Northwest – Winston County Schools
  • South Central – Enterprise City Schools
  • Chilton-Shelby – Chilton County Schools
  • Indian Rivers – School system not finalized
  • East Central – Pike County Schools
  • MAMHA – Elmore County Schools

Additional funds for FY20 will allow the addition of 10 school systems to the collaboration.