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How Montgomery police is working to help those in mental health crises

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The Carastar Crisis Center has 16 beds for people in mental health crisis.

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The Carastar Crisis Center has 16 beds for people in mental health crisis.

The Montgomery Crisis Center has treated 242 people since it opened in May.

The 16-bed facility is designed to be a place where people in mental health crisis can seek treatment. Carastar owns and operates the center, where patients must voluntarily agree to receive services, said Donna Leslie, executive director of Carastar Health.

“The new services, when you talk about the crisis center that is the state, really made an effort to put in new funds because that was the gap,” Leslie said.

Montgomery’s unit is one of the first three centers to receive state money to open. There are now six centers in Alabama, said Johnny Hollingsworth, a retired law enforcement officer who now trains officers to interact with people in mental health crisis.

The Carastar Crisis Center has 16 beds for people in mental health crisis.

Leslie plans to open a larger crisis center by the end of the year. It will have 16 extended observation beds and 10 temporary observation beds

The state provided most of the money for the crisis center, but the city and county also contributed and helped pay for the unit.

Carastar has also created a two-person team that responds to mental health crises across the city. The team started working in May 2021.

The Carastar Crisis Center has 16 beds for people in mental health crisis.

Carastar’s Mobile Unit works in tandem with the Montgomery Police Department’s Crisis Response Team. This group of four officers have undergone additional training to prepare them to handle situations involving mental health crises.

Basically, both units call each other when they need help.

“They call us. We call them. We’re with them all the time, and that works because they’re trained to, you know, they handle things a little bit differently than a typical police officer would,” Leslie said. “You know, they’re trained to really recognize “is it someone who has a mental illness or someone who might have a substance use disorder” and they’re trained to defuse, and we’ll come out with it. Often we know the person or they know the person, and we will work to help defuse, but we will also work to connect them to services. »

Carastar chief executive Donna Leslie expects the new crisis center to be open by the end of the year.

In addition to working with the Carastar Mobile Team, Police Chief Darryl Albert said the department’s Crisis Response Team also works with the Central Alabama VA Medical Center and area hospitals. When people are dangerous to themselves or to others, they must go to the hospital.

Albert said he still wanted the crisis center to be the first option his team explored.

“You never know what you’re going to encounter until you encounter it, so the officer has to assess at the scene and properly determine where to bring them,” Albert said.

Carastar chief executive Donna Leslie expects the new crisis center to be open by the end of the year.

Leslie said she would like to see every county in Alabama have a similar mobile crisis unit.

“The crises we’re seeing just skyrocketed,” Leslie said.

She also said local support for the crisis unit had been good.

“It wasn’t just our project. It’s the community project,” Leslie said.

Carastar chief executive Donna Leslie expects the new crisis center to be open by the end of the year.

Hollingsworth said that when he started working in law enforcement in the 1980s, training to help people with mental illness was non-existent.

“I think over the last three or four years, our governor and our state legislation has really taken up the crusade to support mental health,” Hollingsworth said.

Carastar also offers outpatient care for children and adults. The nonprofit organization has a presence in 21 Montgomery schools. It also offers over 100 apartments for homeless people and another 100 beds in group homes.

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