Agencies concerned about proposed merger

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, August 9, 2006

By By Michele Gerlach – special to the standard
Area managers in state mental health agencies say they are concerned that a proposed merge of the state's two largest catchment areas will have long-term and potentially negative effects on their ability to deliver local services.
With that in mind, they're asking area residents to respond to the state mental health commissioner's request for input
Sheila Williams, M.S., L.P.C., and associate director of the South Central Alabama Mental Health Board, said state mental health commissioner John M. Houston is considering a request by the Mobile-Washington and Bibb, Pickens and Tuscaloosa agencies to merge.
Because the two agencies are home to the state's two mental hospitals, which they also propose to merge, Williams and Candace Harden, executive director of the Southwest Alabama Mental Health Board, are concerned that, long-term, the new mega-agency will be disproportionately funded, hurting their abilities to deliver services to rural clients.
Southwest Alabama Mental Health serves Escambia, Monroe and Conecuh counties, and area of 4,000 square miles, with only eight case managers. By comparison, Mobile has 77 case managers.
South Central mental Health serves Butler, Crenshaw, Coffee and Covington.
Each agency provides community-based services for mental illness, mental retardation and substance abuse.
Mental health services include crisis intervention, individual therapy, group counseling, children's services, day treatment, court liaison and hospital evaluations and adult in-home intervention.
Mental retardation services include early intervention, adult training and case management.
Substance abuse services include outpatient, court referral and prevention programs.
There are 27 similar &#8220Act 310” mental health centers in the state offering similar services.
The designation comes from Alabama Act 310, which the Legislature passed in 1967 to provide mental health services at the local level rather than sending people to state institutions.
The women are requesting local residents to write letters expressing concerns to Commissioner John Houston by Aug. 17, and faxing them to (334) 242-0684 or e-mailing them to

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