Alabama House Passes General Fund Budget, Includes Increased Mental Health Funding

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama House passed the state’s largest general fund budget on Tuesday, at about $2.7 billion.

The budget includes funding increases for several programs, including the Department of Mental Health.

“Over the past decade, Alabama has chronically underfunded the mental health system,” said Holly McCorkle, executive director of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Health Care.

McCorkle represents all 19 mental health centers statewide.

“Our demand right now is the highest we’ve ever seen,” she said.

McCorkle says she’s happy to see a budget that invests money in the more than $41 million these centers provided to patients in unpaid care last year alone.

“It helps community mental health providers pay for their workforce, hire the right people to provide care in all 67 counties,” she said.

The budget also funds two new crisis centers in Tuscaloosa and Dothan.

“Anyone can walk into a crisis center, law enforcement can drop off someone who’s in a mental health crisis, and so we’re very happy to have funding for our fifth and sixth crisis center. crisis,” said Kimberly Boswell, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. noted.

Boswell says that although the pandemic has been a difficult time, she is happy to see greater awareness and increased funding for mental health.

“For us, that’s really the only small bright spot that we could take away from COVID is that it’s really helped us reduce the stigma around mental health.”

This department would receive approximately $182 million in this budget. Rep. Laura Hall (D – Huntsville) says the funding is a step in the right direction.

“Steps are being taken to hopefully address this. We certainly won’t fix the problem, but it’s definitely a good start for us,” Hall said.

The Senate must then approve the amended budget passed by the House, and the governor must sign it for it to become law.

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