By WVUA 23 Web Writer David Williams III
A year ago, former Mental Health Commissioner Jim Purdue said he wanted to move mental health back to Tuscaloosa. That would have included moving the central office from Montgomery to Tuscaloosa, as well as building new facilities. However that’s not the direction current Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear wants to go.
Beshear said she’s working hard to begin partnerships to provide more services to the citizens. She said the former commissioner did not leave a blueprint when he left office, and she doesn’t have a way of figuring out how moving mental health back to Tuscaloosa would work. Beshear said right now she wants to focus on improving mental health in the state.
“Not at this time, I mean right now the plan is to just sort of maintain the relationship that we have,” said Beshear. “We have had a conversation with Tim Lepard at the (University of Alabama) and had begun that conversation about what might be the ideal use for that.”
Multiple pieces of property within Tuscaloosa could be used for new mental heath facilities. The State Mental Health Department owns the University Mall property. The University of Alabama bought Bryce Hospital and Partlow Properties. UA owns the New Bryce Hospital, Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility and Mary Starke Harper Center for Geriatric Psychiatry Center. There are no plans to use the property at University Mall for mental health use.
Beshear said that mental health is facing a lot of challenges, and her main focus is attracting medical professionals to Alabama.
“We have fewer students going into medicine,” said Beshear. “Of them we have fewer of them still going into psychiatry. These people can go anywhere in the country to practice medicine that they want to go, anywhere. They can name their price and go where they want to go. So what does Alabama need to do to be able to attract those professionals here?”
Beshear said the department has begun to pull some strong partnerships with Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor and the Alabama Department of Education.
“I’m very anxious to reach out across all the lines to my counterparts in the state to make sure that we’re working in collaboration to maximize our dollars and our resources and to make sure the people in Alabama are receiving the services they need,” said Beshear.
Alabama Sen. Gregg Reed said that there are not enough physicians in Alabama to be able to meet citizens’ needs.
“We have had a growing army of nurse practitioners and others that have worked hard to fill in the blanks with some of those,” said Reed. “I spoke last week here in Montgomery to a group of nurse anesthetist and was able to say to them if it were not for you we would not have healthcare in Alabama.”