BY HANNAH GOLDFINGER
OPELIKA — The Lee County Commission voted to approve a funding request for East Alabama Health Monday night.
Previously, EAH approached the commission to ask for funding to help build a free-standing mental health facility to accommodate a larger amount of patients than the current department can hold.
Laura Grill, president and CEO of EAMC, approached the commission on Sept. 25.
“East Alabama is proposing to expand its psychiatric facilities to meet the growing needs for mental health in our community,” she said to the commission on that day. “… We are proposing to build a free-standing psychiatric hospital to provide greater in-patient access. As our community has grown, our needs for mental health have grown tremendously as well. We currently have a 28-bed licensed mental health facility as part of the main hospital campus.”
This new project, of a free-standing mental health facility, will add another 12 beds to the county. All beds will now be housed in this building. This is a $23 million project, Grill said, plus $5.5 million for site work.
“So, we are here tonight to ask for funding assistance through the ARPA funds over a two-year period, a total of $4 million toward that facility,” Grill said.
Currently, the hospital serves adult mental health needs, adolescent mental health needs, short-term mental health and a long-term adolescent mental health facility, which includes nine beds.
To read more about the proposed facility and what it will offer, see our previous article here: www.opelikaobserver.com/eamc-seeks-to-build-free-standing-mental-health-facility/.
“This community is very underserved in psychiatry,” she said.
EAMC has applied for its necessary ‘certificate of need’ and should that be approved, it plans to begin construction in Spring 2024 and it is an 18-month completion project.
At the previous meeting, District 1 Commissioner Doug Cannon asked to table the item since other commissioners wanted more time to discuss where the money would come from.
“They came to us and asked for $4 million,” Cannon said Monday night. “We have $2 million we can give. I think we’ll have more next year we can allocate.”
Cannon proposed giving EAH $2 million for October 2024, $1 million for October 2025 and $1 million for October 2026, in order to reach the full $4 million.
“I definitely want to fund this project, because it’s like we’ve all said before, we want to look back in ten years and see results from this [American Rescue Plan Act] funds,” Cannon said.
Probate Judge Bill English said that Lee County has a shortage of help for mental needs.
“There’s very few things that we could do that would be any better than supporting mental health for Lee County,” said District 2 Commissioner Ross Morris. “I’m definitely in support.”
While the official resolution was not on hand Monday night, the commission did vote on the resolution.
- The commission heard a presentation from EMA Director Rita Smith on the Mid-South RC&D Checks.
- The commission heard an ADPH Regional Distribution Site Lee County Exercise Update from EMA Director Rita Smith.
- The commission heard an update on the Dirt Road Paving Program from County Engineer Justin Hardee.
- The commission heard an update on the free disposal days from Environmental Services Director John McDonald.
- The commission heard the first reading of an opening on the Beulah Utilities Board.
- The commission heard an announcement on the Smiths Station Fire and Rescue Board.
- The commission approved an appointment to the Lee County Planning Commission.
- The commission heard a presentation on Avenu Insights from Yolanda Walkins.
- The commission postponed the vote on the renewal agreements with Avenu Insights.
- The commission amended a resolution with the state of Alabama Department of Revenue and postponed the vote on a separate resolution with ADOR.
- The commission postponed the vote on the FY 2024 outside appropriations.
- The commission postponed the vote on the FY 2024 budget.
- The commission heard from Lakiesha Hicks on the broadband situation in District 5.
- The commission approved the results of bid #2024-01 for 100 or more Glock handguns for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
- The commission approved the results of bid #2023-19 for one or more 2024 Ford Expeditions for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
- The commission approved the educational reimbursement requests from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
- The commission approved a volunteer fire department assistance request.
- The commission approved a master services agreement with AUBix.
- The commission postponed the vote on the 2024 Gas Tax Fund budget adjustment.