The Alabama Crisis System of Care

No individual is immune from the impact of untreated behavioral health needs. Each year, there are thousands of preventable tragedies that may be addressed with proper mental health resources and access to care.

Currently, without a coordinated crisis system of care in Alabama, individuals in a mental health or substance use disorder crisis are placed in jails or hospitals, neither of which can provide them with the acute services they need.

The Alabama Crisis System of Care:

  • Diverts more individuals from civil commitments
  • Expands access to care
  • Offers additional levels of care to individuals in need of mental health care
  • Reduces the number of arrests
  • Decreases frequency of admissions to hospital emergency departments
  • Assists individuals in crisis to achieve stability
  • Promotes sustained recovery
  • Offers the right care, at the right time, at the right place

To address these needs, the Alabama Department of Mental Health has begun the journey to a Alabama Crisis System of Care, which will provide a systemic approach to crisis care that saves lives and dollars: Accessible, Interconnect, Effective, and Just.

Gov. Kay Ivey, the Alabama State Legislature, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health have funded three Crisis Centers which are offering services in staged levels.  These centers improve access to behavioral healthcare services for individuals who are experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis, and they aid jails and hospitals throughout the state by alleviating their burden to house and care for these individuals.

The Crisis Centers will be individualized to the unique needs of the communities they serve.  They are located at the community mental health centers in Mobile, Montgomery, and Huntsville:

  • AltaPointe Health: The Behavioral Health Crisis Center will be located Mobile County and will serve Baldwin, Washington, Clark, Conecuh, Escambia, and Monroe Counties. Click here for information on the center. The phone number for Behavioral Health Crisis Center is (251) 450-2211.
  • Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority: This center will have a regional approach, with the center based in Montgomery, serving the entire River Region, and the counties of Chambers, Lee, Russell and Tallapoosa, in partnership with the community mental health centers of East Alabama and East Central Alabama. The phone number for the Crisis Center is (334) 279-7830.
  • WellStone Behavioral Health: This center will be located in Huntsville serving Cullman and Madison counties, and the surrounding counties of Fayette, Lamar, Marion, Walker, Winston, Lawrence, Limestone, Morgan, Jackson, Marshall, Cherokee, Dekalb and Etowah. The phone number for WellStone Emergency Services Crisis Center is (256) 734-4688.

ADMH thanks Governor Ivey and legislative investment, which helps to expand and transform the Alabama crisis system of care, dramatically lower healthcare costs, reinvest state dollars, achieve better health outcomes, and improve life for those with acute mental health needs.

Stepping Up Alabama is an integral part of the Alabama crisis system of care. Stepping Up is a national initiative designed to reduce the number of people who have mental illnesses in jails and hospital emergency departments. To learn more about Stepping Up Alabama, its components, and progress, please visit Stepping Up Alabama.

Rural Crisis Care


The goals for rural crisis programs are aligned with the overarching goals of crisis care, which are to reduce the burden on EDs/Hospitals, reduce burden on Law Enforcement/Jails, and improve access for the “right care, right time, right place.”

In Fiscal Year 2021, five community mental health centers across the state received funding to increase their crisis care services:

  • Cahaba Center for Mental Health
  • Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center
  • Southwest Alabama Behavioral Health Care Systems
  • WellStone Behavioral Health (Cullman)
  • West Alabama Mental Health Center

Each center has chosen to build a mobile crisis unit into their services. The community mental health centers may also include in their crisis services: a co-response with law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, crisis peer support, crisis case management, regional call centers, and respite options.

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 the 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.

Fifteen mental health centers will receive additional funds for the expansion of SBMH services with the $750,000 in FY 21. We currently have 71 school systems and all 19 community mental health centers participating in the School-Based Mental Health Collaboration Program.

 

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].