Wellstone to open only psychiatric in-patient wing for children in Madison County

There's no dedicated inpatient mental health care facility for kids in the county.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:14 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A mental health clinic’s leaders say about 800 children are taken out of Madison County to receive mental health help every year, but Wellstone, Inc. leaders want to bring resources to Huntsville.

If your child is experiencing a mental health crisis in Madison County, you have to search far and wide to find help because there’s no dedicated inpatient mental health care facility for kids in the county.

Wellstone leaders say children often have to go to emergency rooms and wait for as long as 24 hours before a spot in a pediatric psychiatric in-patient treatment center opens up. The closest option is Decatur West, but Wellstone leaders say it’s often full so parents usually have to travel much farther.

The problem became very clear to Amanda Powell, the mother of Aaron Brown. Brown was charged with stealing and killing his grandmother in 2021. Powell believes if he received the mental health help that he needs, he wouldn’t have resorted to that violence.

Wellstone’s Development Director Karen Petersen says a long journey in an already difficult situation can make it much harder.

“There are so many parents who share stories who have to send their child via ambulance to Dothan, to Laverne, to Mobile,” said Petersen. “I have friends who have driven their kids to Franklin, Tennessee.”

When the wing is complete, it will have about 24 beds for children so families don’t have to make the long trip while they’re already suffering.

Petersen says this is coming right in time. While they started receiving funding before the pandemic, COVID-19 shined a brighter light on children’s mental health.

“This was already in the works before COVID hit but I think the gap became more and more apparent for children after COVID,” Petersen said. “We don’t necessarily know if COVID caused more mental illness but it certainly took our blinders off.”

In the meantime, Wellstone, Inc. still has resources available for you and your family, you can call the mental health hotline at 988 for more information.

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