The Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center (NAMHC) is planning to build an approximately $1.3 million, 10,000-square-foot facility to provide a secure, 16-bed facility for short-term patients, as well as a day program for outpatient services.
The location, on Hull Road just off Main Street, has been abandoned for a number of years and is home to overgrown weeds and numerous dilapidated buildings. Clearing began recently to get the site prepared for the new building.
“We’re excited about this project,” NAMHC Executive Director Skip Newman said.
The secure portion of the facility will house people committed by the probate judge while they undergo assessments and treatment. Those 16 beds are for patients who will be in the facility for a maximum of 150 days, although Newman stresses that many of them are not residents for that long and may only be there a few weeks.
“These are people who are in crisis,” Newman explained.
Newman said that treatment, medication (when needed) and education often return these patients to a normal state and allow them to return home and resume their normal lives.
“All of them want to be ‘normal,’ and we’re going to try our best to make that happen,” Newman said. “Facilities like this will work, when, years ago, people were put into mental hospitals to die.”
This will be one of four facilities of its kind in north Alabama; NAMHC is already operating similar facilities in other parts of its five-county coverage zones.
Currently, mental commitments in the area are taken to North Alabama Regional Hospital in Decatur.
The secure side of the facility will be locked and patients will not be allowed to venture outside or off the property. That area will also be staffed with a nurse and several other employees around the clock. There will be a physician or nurse practitioner on the premises five days a week and on call at all times.
One way this facility will be different from many others is the fact that it will be equipped to treat co-occurring substance abuse in addition to mental illness. Most programs treat one or the other, but this program will endeavor to treat them simultaneously, which Clinical Director Dale Cottle said has a much higher, long-term success rate.
The day area will be for patients who live off site but still need therapy or education about their conditions. Newman said those patients need the structure of the program as they reintegrate into society. It will also provide education and support for families impacted by mental illness.
Newman said the program searched for property in many areas but settled on Sumiton, in part, because of the proximity to Birmingham and resources there.
Sumiton Mayor Petey Ellis said he believes the facility will be a boost to the area’s economy.
“It will be something we’ve never had,” Ellis said. “I think it is going to be good for the community by creating jobs and using local resources.”
NAMHC hopes to open the project up to begin taking bids in late August or early September and would like to open the facility by January.