By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times
Local officials and several representatives from the Cullman County mental health board joined together at a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday morning for a new mental health facility that will house up to 16 patients.
Construction is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.
Mental Health Care of Cullman Executive Director Chris Van Dyke said the construction bid was awarded Tuesday to Nearen Construction of Cullman for $2,149,000.
“The plan is for the facility to be completed by May of 2014 and open to the public in June,” Van Dyke said. “The residential facility secured contractors this afternoon.”
The entire project will cost $2.5 million, with $750,000 coming from state bond funds that were set aside for these types of project. The other funds were borrowed from Cullman Savings Bank to cover the project.
Cullman County's new facility will be a secure, locked group home for patients that have been court-ordered to receive psychiatric treatment. Many mental health advocates believe patients receive more effective treatment and care in smaller, less isolating facilities.
The new facility is an example of how the Alabama Department of Mental Health is shifting away from large mental health hospitals to smaller group homes, which officials say are less expensive and give patients more freedom.
Officials believe establishing a 16-bed facility in Cullman County will serve the local and surrounding communities well. Van Dyke said moving away from the large facilities of the past to a more personal setting like the one planned locally is a welcome approach to mental health care in the area.
Among those present for the ceremony included: Architect Jock Leonard, Mayor Max Townson, Probate Judge Tammy Brown, Cullman Savings bank representatives John Riley and Alan Wood, Mental Health board members: Sally Alexander, Carrie Woods, Lucille Powell, Linda Bergeron, Doug Pender, Herman Reid, Shelby Knight, Greg Johnson and Jerry Weathersby. City Economic Development representative Susie Hood was also present, as well as probate clerks Kathy Swann and Beth Morrison.
* Lauren Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.
* Tiffeny Owens contributed to this article.