Commissioner of State Mental Health speaks at town hall

Published 9:14 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2016

State of Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner James Perdue spoke Wednesday at a town hall in Selma.

State of Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner James Perdue spoke Wednesday at a town hall in Selma.

State of Alabama Department of Mental Health representatives visited Selma to raise awareness and to discuss local needs.

Commissioner James Perdue spoke during a town hall meeting on Wednesday at the Carl C. Convention Center to help initiate change for mental health in the state.

“What we are trying to do is have town hall meetings to discuss the needs of mental health, to make sure communities are aware and then they can take their awareness to the legislators,” Perdue said.

Perdue discussed the current crisis in the state such as people on waiting lists for help; the overflow of people in prison who aren’t receiving proper mental health or substance abuse services; and the number of children who may not be receiving services or the proper amount of services to make any difference.

Toward the end of the meeting, people were asked to take a quick group survey. The questions asked the participants whether or not they believe additional services are needed for developmentally or intellectually disabled in the area; how important it is to improve access; to rate the community police, court and jails on how they handle individuals with mental illness; and other questions.

“At the end of this, we hope to have a summit in Birmingham that will bring all of the efforts together and talk about the legislation that might be required to help solve some of this or some of the funding requirements that might be needed,” Perdue said.

Lafon Barlow, Cahaba Center for Mental Health executive director, said the meeting was beneficial for her and her staff to understand current situations with the state and to express the needs of the local area.

Barlow said transportation and access are two of the issues the area currently faces.

“If we did not run the buses that we run, then people would not get to services,” Barlow said. “But access, getting people in quickly is critical.”

Barlow said Cahaba Center would like to improve its access for walk-ins and to have service comparable to an urgent care. Right now, services must be scheduled weeks in advance.

Barlow said open access services is something the center is working toward currently and hopes it to be fully operational in the fall.

So far, the commissioner has visited six different towns and will continue to hold town meetings until September in both rural and metropolitan areas.

“Mental health affects every family, every community and every county across the state,” Perdue said. “I believe everything we talked about can be solved.”