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Stepping Up grant to help Limestone inmates, patients with mental illnesses

Decatur Daily - 7/26/2019

Jul. 26--The Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama has received a grant to hire a full-time case manager to connect people who have mental illnesses with community services as they're released from Limestone County Jail or the Athens-Limestone Hospital emergency department.

The $50,000 Stepping Up Initiative grant came from the Alabama Department of Mental Health, according to Bill Giguere, the development officer with the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama. He explained that Stepping Up is an effort to close the gap between the people who need assistance and the services that are available from community agencies.

"If we can make a difference for just one person, that's amazing," said Kathy Goodwin, the Stepping Up coordinator with the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama.

She said the Limestone County case manager will work with the Alabama Stepping Up technical assistance team, local governments and law enforcement in an effort to reduce recidivism for inmates and unnecessary hospital re-admissions for people with serious mental illness issues.

"We should be able to start (providing services) in Limestone County in October," Giguere said.

The Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama also received a Stepping Up grant last year to work with the Morgan County Jail and Decatur Morgan Hospital.

"We started seeing clients in January" in the Morgan County Stepping Up program, Goodwin said.

To date, more than 50 inmates have been referred for screening at the Morgan County Jail and more than 10 people have been referred by Decatur Morgan Hospital, according to Goodwin.

Nearly 40 people have received case management or behavioral health care treatment and other community services upon release from jail or discharge from the hospital, according to Goodwin. The recidivism rate for inmates who received Stepping Up case management when they were released from jail is less than 5%, she said.

"This translates to huge financial savings to Morgan County," she said in a statement.

"Some people who refused to take advantage of the (Morgan County) program called me back later and said they had changed their minds," Goodwin said.

Examples of assistance a case manager could provide are helping an inmate or patient obtain substance abuse treatment, transportation, housing, medication or disability benefits.

Other mental health centers receiving grants for fiscal year 2020 are AltaPointe Health, East Alabama Mental Health Center, Indian Rivers Mental Health Center and West Alabama Mental Health Center.

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