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Improving access, preventing tragedies is priority of mental health bills, Ledbetter says alongside lawmakers

Alabama lawmakers and officials gathered Wednesday to outline progress on the state's mental health care approach. During the press conference, they discussed bills aimed at making treatment easier to access, allocating funds more effectively and modernizing the way family members and emergency responders address substance abuse alongside mental illness.

House Speaker Nathaniel Leadbetter, who has brought mental health policy issues to the forefront of Congress during his tenure as Speaker, began his speech by sharing the personal story of a mother whose son lost his life in a tragic altercation with police after struggling with mental illness.

Shortly after being implored by his constituents to consider mental health reform, he and Gov. Kay Ivey were already working on it.

“So we got people from across the state, education judges, probate judges, law enforcement officials, school systems, talked about what we could do, and we put together a package that put six crisis care centers and 14 mobile units in each school system so that paid mental health support is now available in the state of Alabama,” said Rep. Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

RELATED: Alabama launches mental health outreach series with support from lawmakers

State Senator Will Barfoot, State Representative Rex Reynolds and State Representative Russell Bedsall also offered encouraging remarks, saying that thanks to the support of their colleagues, the legislative efforts will save lives.

A companion bill by Rep. Barfoot (R-Pike Road) and Rep. Bedsall (R-Alabaster) would: Community-level treatment From state-level policy. The proposal is moving forward in the committee process and is expected to be voted on unanimously soon.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health, represented by Commissioner Kim Boswell, detailed an expansion and strengthening of the state's crisis care system aimed at redirecting individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders from jails and emergency departments to appropriate treatment facilities.

Such a system would address the need for civil incarceration and integrate mental health and substance use treatment.

“This system exists to keep people out of prison, especially those with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Boswell said Wednesday.

“We don't want to put them in jail. We don't want them to go to emergency departments where there are long wait times and often no help available. Crisis care systems improve access to care for people who are willing to receive treatment, but we know through our discussions with probate judges and the County Commissioners Association that there has been a sharp increase in the number of people who voluntarily receive treatment – people who require civil incarceration to receive treatment.”

Grayson Everett is the state and politics editor for Yellow Hammer News. You can follow him on Twitter. Grayson

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