July 29, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of


MONTGOMERY – Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Zelia Baugh spoke today to an audience of parents, advocates and professionals at the 10th annual Alabama Family Ties conference at Shocco Springs near Talladega. AFT works to end stigma and discrimination against families raising children who have mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and to increase the availability of and access to high quality services for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances in all child-serving systems.

Since becoming commissioner in January, Baugh has led efforts to significantly restructure the organization and service delivery system of the department to achieve financial efficiencies and offer more access to care for adults and children in Alabama. “We need to create a service system that more accurately reflects the needs of our consumers and families, including individuals with co-occurring disorders,” said Baugh. For several years, the department has been moving in the direction of improving access by partnering with other child-serving agencies and placing services in those settings. In 2010, the adolescent unit at Bryce Hospital closed and services were relocated to UAB.

In central Alabama, the department is partnering with Troy University and West Alabama Mental Health in the implementation of a system of care grant. The term system of care in the mental health profession speaks to the practice of providing counseling and case management for children and adolescents who enter the mental health system through portals such as the juvenile justice system, school counselors or other health care professionals. Often families find it difficult to see progress if there is no continuity of care between professionals who specialize in one aspect of children’s issues. The system of care grant places teams of trained counselors into the schools, courts and communities to provide one source for families who try to navigate what may seem to be a disconnected set of services provided by multiple agencies.

Other initiatives that target children and families include the expansion of juvenile court liaisons and treatment support of Juvenile Drug Courts (alternatives to incarceration). Baugh informed the audience about serious conversations with the state Department of Education about expanding support in schools around Alabama. There is a window of opportunity to look at how existing resources can be reallocated within both systems to bring research-supported programming to youth. For many years, youth under the age of eighteen with psychological problems were diagnosed with the term serious emotional disturbance rather than a specific mental illness. In recent years that bias has been dropped and most medical professionals now acknowledge psychiatric illnesses in young people.

Baugh also emphasized the importance of the parents in their child’s treatment, resiliency and recovery, pointing out the fact that their support is just as important as the work of a counselor and/or medication. Additionally, she noted an issue that is often overlooked. Parents should have a plan to take care of themselves and identify supports that they will need to help with the difficult road ahead. Parents must work to develop their own care plan that addresses questions many have about recharging and finding their own supports. Belonging to groups like Alabama Family Ties and local parent support groups are a very real way to garner that support.



For more information on Alabama Family Ties, visit their Web site at http://www.alfamilyties.org/.

  • For more information, visit http://mh.alabama.gov
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