September 8, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

ADMH Merges Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Service Divisions

MONTGOMERY – The integration of mental health and substance abuse treatment is at the forefront of a national trend toward a more holistic approach to wellness. For people with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders, access to effective treatment can be the difference between a sustained recovery and a prolonged struggle. In a strategic move to more effectively meet those needs, the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Commissioner Zelia Baugh instituted the merger of the Division of Mental Illness Services and the Division of Substance Abuse Services into one division. This merger affords the opportunity for the department to break down the service silos that tend to develop between divisions. Baugh comments, “This is particularly important when one considers the fact that approximately 75 percent of individuals with mental illnesses also have substance use disorders. The expected outcome of this merger is a more integrated, seamless service system.”

Advances in understanding mental illnesses and substance use disorders have led to a clear understanding that, while these diseases are strongly interactive and inter-related, systems of care have historically treated them separately. This fragmented approach has resulted in missed opportunities to provide behavioral health services for the overarching needs of the individual. In consideration of this fact, it is beneficial to have a cross-trained, shared workforce that provides best practice treatments for individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Additionally, the separate federal block grants to states for substance abuse and mental illness services will soon be submitted and funded as one grant that delivers services to individuals to promote recovery, mental health and wellness. The merger will more closely align ADMH’s departmental structure with federal priorities and funding streams designed to promote holistic sustained recovery.

Tammy Peacock, Ph.D., was appointed Associate Commissioner for the recently merged division. Dr. Peacock has established a merger task force of stakeholders including providers, consumers and others charged with developing a comprehensive plan regarding issues that need to be addressed. The task force recommendations are expected to propose a systematic approach to merging the two divisions resulting in an enhanced continuum of community-based services that will be much more responsive to the needs of the individuals ADMH serves.

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