Walt Maddox announces mental health policy plan

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Tuscaloosa Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox on Monday released his policy plan to address mental health issues in Alabama if elected Governor.

Maddox’s plan focuses on improving mental health through Medicaid expansion.

“Nationwide, almost one-third of persons who receive health insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion have a mental disorder, a substance abuse disorder, or both,” said Maddox. “People who are uninsured have a higher prevalence of mental health conditions than the overall population, and expansion is key to providing broader access to mental health treatment.”

Maddox says Alabama has consistently decreased or level funded mental health “in an era where society is experiencing increasing mental health problems.”

“All of Alabama’s 54 rural counties are classified as mental health care shortage areas,” Maddox continued. “Our jails and prisons have become de facto mental hospitals, but without providing effective treatment. There’s no reason we cannot return to the days of providing comprehensive and effective prevention and treatment for mental illness.”

As such, Maddox’s plan includes focusing on prisoner mental health.

“For too long, politicians in Alabama have focused on meting out harsh punishment through long prison sentences, while ignoring the fact that many prisoners have mental health problems and most of them will return to society one day.”

In June 2017, a federal court found Alabama prison system’s mental-health care to be “horrendously inadequate” and thus in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

His mental health plan also includes:

  • Providing mental health resources to schools. As part of his Alabama Education Lottery proposal $25 million will be allocated annually for Community Innovation Grants that can be used by local school systems to improve social services to students, including providing mental health resources.
  • Appointing a professional commissioner of mental health who is given free rein to advocate for more funding, more effective treatments, and better facilities.
  • Separating out substance abuse programs from under the Department of Mental Health, so that a cabinet level officer would report to the Governor on the state’s opioid crisis and other substance abuse problems, allowing the Department of Mental health to concentrate on its core mission.

“Alabama has betrayed its own legacy of effective and compassionate mental health treatment by continually underfunding mental health services, relying on jails and prisons to house the severely mentally ill, and passing the state’s responsibility down to communities and local governments. Under my administration, mental health will be a priority,” Maddox posted on Facebook announcing his plan. 

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