Cullman Psychiatric Commitments Up 300% In Just Two Years

by | Apr 2, 2018 | Breaking News, Community, Get Smart, People

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Cullman Psychiatric Commitments Up 300% In Just Two Years

A freestanding crisis center to provide triage and crisis treatment for adults and families with mental health or addiction crisis is the believed to be the best long-term solution.

According to a press release from Cullman Regional, psychiatric commitments in Cullman County are up 300% in just two years.

This graph shows how Cullman-area commitments to mental health-related institutions have skyrocketed since 2014:

In addition to commitments involving the Cullman County Judge of Probate, Coroner Jeremy L. Kilpatrick has seen, the suicide rate double in 2017 with 25 recorded suicides.

It has become increasingly clear that something must be done in Cullman County to stop, if not reverse, this disturbing and tragic trend.

As a result, representatives from multiple Cullman agencies involved directly (and/or indirectly) with this mental health epidemic have come together

The group is called the Cullman County Advisory Committee. Their mission is to create a plan capable of solving this growing problem across Cullman County.

Former State Representative, NARCOG Executive, member of Governor Robert Bentley’s cabinet, and career public servant – Neal Morrison – is the Advisory Group Leader:

“As state and private psychiatric hospital beds have closed, the need for such care has been steadily increasing.”

Image by Amanda Sowards of Montgomery Advertiser

Cullman Regional’s press release spotlights two recent high-profile incidents involving community members with mental illness as graphic examples:

A law enforcement standoff with Frank Kane (52) who died when he ignited his Catoma Lane house where he had lived with his mother.

The inexplicable murder of prominent Cullman attorney Steve Griffith who was shot to death at his Vinemont home by an intruder who the Sheriff’s Office said was mentally ill. The murderer had apparently been obsessed with the victim for more than a decade.

Some of the mental health programs already in place.

Mental Health First Aid training for local law enforcement. This training will be conducted by WellStone (formerly Cullman Mental Health) with materials being provided courtesy of Probate Judge Tammy Brown.

Also, WellStone will be temporarily waiving all self-pay fees for addiction treatment in order to remove any barriers for those seeking help.

“We are already making progress, and have valuable commitments from several of our local partners,” Morrison said.

Chris Van Dyke, Wellston Chief Operations Officer had these thoughts:

“The committee has outlined a three-phase plan to help create a long-term, sustainable solution.”

The Three-Part Plan

Phase 1
Address the current crisis in the Cullman Regional Emergency Department

Due to the dramatic rise in the number of people needing inpatient care, the situation has created a crisis in local emergency departments, including Cullman Regional.

The hospital is required to provide medical clearance in order to admit patients to scarce psychiatric hospital beds.

Patients routinely wait days, and sometimes weeks, in the emergency department as they wait and search for an open psychiatric bed.

Phase 2
Improve funding for wraparound crisis services and address statewide barriers to care.

Often times, patients receive inpatient treatment and they are able to return to society. However, without continuous care and programs, they frequently return back to the Emergency Department for treatment which begins the cycle over again.

This phase of the plan seeks to create and/or grow outpatient day programs and outreach workers who can follow people with a history of mental health illness and intervene prior to a crisis situation.

Phase 3
Open a freestanding mental health crisis center in Cullman County

After successfully completing phase one and two, the committee believes the creation of a freestanding crisis center to provide triage and crisis treatment for adults and families with mental health or addiction crisis is the best long-term solution.

The committee has reviewed several models from around the United States and believes this will alleviate the pressure on both hospitals and local law enforcement in dealing with individuals or families in crisis.

The Mental Health Advisory Committee currently consists of representatives from the following agencies:

• Cullman Regional Medical Center
• WellStone
• Judge Greg Nicholas – Circuit Court
• Judge Tammy Brown – Probate Court
• The Sanctuary at the Woodlands representatives
• Judge Kim Chaney – District Court
• Judge Martha Williams – Circuit Court
• Judge Rusty Turner – District Court
• Cullman County Sheriff Department
• Brooks Place – Child Advocacy Center of Cullman
• Cullman County Juvenile Probation
• Cullman County Schools
• Cullman City Schools
• Cullman County DHR
• Cullman County District Attorney

Judge of Probate Tammy Brown heads up the Cullman County Probate Court. She is rationally enthusiastic about the 3-part plan:

“We have big plans, but it will require all of us working together, toward the same goal in order to make this work.”

For more information on the Advisory committee or how you can get involved, contact any of the local partners or contact advisory leader Neal Morrison at (256) 339-6555.

About Cullman Regional

Cullman Regional is a fully accredited 145-bed medical center which covers a five-county service area of 175,000 residents and has been a part of the community since 1939. Cullman Regional is dedicated to improving the health of the community by providing excellent healthcare resources in order to help the communities live the healthiest lives possible. For more information on the services provided by Cullman Regional, visit www.cullmanregional.com.

About Wellstone Inc.

WellStone Inc. is a non-profit community organization that provides mental health and substance abuse services supporting the integrated health of the whole person. WellStone operates 12 facilities throughout North Alabama. WellStone is certified by the Alabama Department of Mental Health. WellStone offers programs for adults, children and adolescents, substance abuse, school-based outreach, community services and more. For more information, visit www.wellstone.com.

About Cullman County Probate Office

The Judge of Probate handles the probate of estates of those who die with a will and the administration of estates of those who die without a will. The Probate Court also handles administrations and wills, adoptions, commitments, condemnations, name changes, conservatorships, guardianships, legitimations, summary distribution, and other jurisdictional court procedures as well as serves as the chief election official for Cullman County and oversees the driver license, licensing and recording departments for Cullman County. For more information, visit www.cullmancourts.org/probatecourt

Cullman County Mental Health

Cullman Psychiatric Commitments Up 300% In Just Two Years

Timothy Collins

Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com.

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