HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (WAFF) – Mental health issues are central to the Tennessee Valley.
On Thursday evening, Huntsville City Council approved a resolution to build a new crisis diversion center to help people who are often ignored and don’t know where to go.
Police Chief Mark McMurray said the new center is a partnership with Wellstone Mental Health Services, which will help them respond to emergencies.
They plan to build the facility on South Memorial Parkway.
“Huntsville Police currently respond to over 1,000 suicide calls per year, ”said Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray.
McMurray said the majority of calls they answer are a variety of mental health crisis situations.
To help defuse the scenes, Wellstone Mental Health Services is providing law enforcement with crisis intervention training to respond to calls.
In addition, a new 25,000 square foot diversion crisis center will be built to place trained mental health professionals with officers.
“Not everyone wants to go to the hospital for some reason and jail is not appropriate. So now that we are able to provide that third option, we have a real gateway approach, and we can turn people away from those other options, ”said Jeremy Blair, CEO of Wellstone.
Resident Ava Melendez said that while she believes the CIT training is a step in the right direction, she would like to see more police reform when it comes to mental health.
“Because last week our city leaders publicly tolerated the murder of a suicidal man, Jeffrey Parker. How can you ask us to hand over our safety to you when an officer can step into an already tense situation and shoot an innocent man and you are using all our tax dollars to fund his defense while our mayor and our boss give him a pat on the back !? ”said Melendez.
Other residents like Russell Stranners believe more resources are needed to help those in need.
“Are the buses going there?” Do we have this access? Do we have more facilities than this place on the promenade? Then we won’t need agents doing these interventions and frankly any agent who goes with mere hours of training once they recognize it’s a bad situation should take a step back until then. let a real professional come to the scene, ”said Stranners.
The crisis center is expected to be built by July of next year.
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