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Hulsey brings perspective to Legislature’s focus on mental health expansion

Hulsey’s son is on the autism spectrum, and she worked to ensure law enforcement approach people with “invisible disabilities” appropriately.

Leigh Hulsey

Leigh Hulsey joins the Alabama House of Representatives with a wealth of pertinent experience, from owning and operating two small businesses to serving 14 years on the Helena City Council.

And Hulsey will bring a unique perspective to the House as the mother of a son, Cade, on the autism spectrum.

That perspective led Hulsey to bring changes to benefit people with autism in the city of Helena, and she hopes to continue to make a difference at the Statehouse.

“That has been something that the Lord has used to create change,” Hulsey said.

Hulsey began working with the council and the Helena Police Department to implement training for officers to recognize individuals on the spectrum or with other mental difficulties.

“This training for police and firefighters helps them be able to recognize people with ASD, PTSD— we call them ‘invisible disabilities,’” Hulsey said. “Our police chief was very open to the idea and jumped all in … Learning to advocate for your child is a challenging thing, but it’s a beautiful thing for the Lord to sift through those things and make a difference for the future.”

Hulsey hopes to expand that training statewide to ensure police officers can identify and properly respond when encountering a citizen that needs a different approach.

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Hulsey also worked alongside KultureCity, who provides the law enforcement training, to create a distinctive license plate that can now be purchased in Alabama to signal to law enforcement that the driver or occupant of the vehicle has an invisible disability.

The Alabama Legislature has used Covid funds to rapidly expand mental health infrastructure in the past couple of sessions and Hulsey wants to ensure that remains a focus for the state.

“What I continue to hear people talking about is the mental health crisis within our state we are facing,” Hulsey said. “It’s time for our state to put our money where our mouth is; we need to take care of people …  We had great mental health benefits for our son, and very little intervention is done anymore because we spent all those years in treatment for him early on. But I come across families who did not have that access to that and they are still struggling to find some norms. That breaks my heart.”

In addition to mental health, Hulsey identified school choice, infrastructure and inflation as the top three concerns she heard from residents while knocking doors on the campaign trail.

School choice has been a difficult topic that Republicans have been grappling with, as a bill came forward last session but failed to advance.

Hulsey said her experience on the campaign trail is that her district is incredibly divided on it as well.

“It’s going to make this a little bit more challenging for my district specifically,” Hulsey said. “I talked to others who have run for other seats, and they are experiencing completely the opposite; their districts are either very pro-school-choice or anti-school choice. Mine seems very divided, at least at the doorsteps.”

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Hulsey suggested both sides need to come together and find some kind of consensus on how to move forward.

“I feel like it would be very valuable for those opposing sides to hear one another’s concerns and come to consensus to give me a better way to know how to represent them,” Hulsey said. “It’s the most divided they were on any one issue, outside of gambling.”

In addition to tackling her district’s top concerns, Hulsey said she also loves digging into the budgeting side.

“I enjoy really the opportunity I’ve had to steward tax dollars wisely, to know that I’m accountable for all of those things through council experience,” Hulsey said. “I want to start diving into that from the state level, starting to understand how it works.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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