Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R – Rainsville, on Thursday praised House passage of a major legislative initiative designed to expand and improve the mental health services available to Alabama citizens.
“Republicans and Democrats in Alabama are traditionally on opposing sides of most issues, so it is a special opportunity when both parties can work together as one unified group,” Ledbetter said. “Improving and expanding the mental health services offered by the state will give new hope and needed help to thousands of our fellow Alabamians and the friends and family members who love them. Studies estimate that one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, so simple math indicates that everyone, whether aware or not, knows someone who is struggling and needs these services.”
With no dissenting votes, Republican and Democrat House members approved a three-bill package that included:
- A School Service Coordinator Bill sponsored by Ledbetter that requires each school system within the state to employ a mental health service coordinator that will be funded by legislative appropriation.
- A 72-Hour Hold Bill sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen, R – Troy, that authorizes law enforcement officers to place individuals who are believed to have mental illness and pose a threat to themselves or others under 72-hour protective custody, which includes transportation to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.
- A CIT Training Bill sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R – Huntsville, that requires the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to provide mandatory crisis intervention training and continuing education to law enforcement officers.
The House previously approved two resolutions that are part of the package and include:
- A Crisis Care Center joint resolution by Rep. Randall Shedd, R – Fairview, that calls for the immediate creation and funding of three 24-hour crisis care centers, which serve as an alternative to costly hospital and emergency room visits by providing suicide prevention and other mental health services on an immediate, walk-in basis.
- A Stepping Up joint resolution by Rep. Anthony Daniels, D – Huntsville, that encourages Alabama’s 67 counties to implement and embrace the Stepping Up initiative, which seeks to reduce the number of individuals in jail with mental illness and has dramatically reduced the recidivism rate in a number of communities.
Alabama’s last effort to emphasize mental health services without a court order occurred in the 1960s when Lurleen Wallace passed a $43 million bond issue, which is equivalent to roughly $300 million today.
The full package of bills and resolutions now travels to the State Senate for consideration.