AL mental health commissioner discusses services, inmates at tow - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

AL mental health commissioner discusses services, inmates at town hall

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

The mental health crisis in Alabama was the focus of a town hall meeting in Decatur on Wednesday.

Jim Perdue, the state mental health department commissioner, met with the community at the Mental Health Center of North Alabama. Law enforcement, court officials, elected officials, health care workers and people whose families are affected by mental health issues were among those in attendance.

Perdue talked about ways to increase access to services for people who suffer from mental illness, who have developmental disabilities, and who are addicted to drugs.

"If someone suffered with cancer, I've said people will bake you cakes and bring you cookies. But if you're diagnosed with a mental illness, they'll avoid you. We've got to change that. We have to do better," Perdue said.

He talked about the need to better train officers to recognize when someone has a mental issue. He also addressed ways to help inmates and prisoners who suffer from mental illnesses.

"If someone is ever released, then the same people who treated them on the inside are waiting on them on the outside. But what I want to do even further is to design a furlough system, if you will, that would help remove people from prisons who are there because they are mentally ill or because of their substance abuse," Perdue said.

Perdue is encouraging people to call their state legislators to urge them to increase funding.

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