Alabama Psychiatric Services closes Friday impacting thousands of patients statewide
February 11, 2015
By Sarah Snyder
JEFFERSON COUNTY – AL – Thousands of people in Alabama who depend on mental health care could be in “dire straights.” Problem is: there’s a shortage of psychiatrists. This Friday, the Alabama Psychiatric Services clinics are closing their doors. That’s leaving patients in counties all over the state with limited access to mental health providers.
“I’ve had my illness which is paranoid schizophrenia since 1998,” Helena Doering, a mental health patient said.
Helena Doering says her well-being depends on having a psychiatrist and medicine to help balance schizophrenia.
“You need your medicine,” she said. “It’s part of your chemical imbalance. If you don’t have the medicine to help you, you can have an epsiode, you can go through psychosis, it’s very scary. It’s very scary.”
Alabama Psychiatric Services, who serves around 28,000 people statewide, announced it’s closing it’s doors. On it’s website it states, “Due to a decrease in funding from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama and a change in its model of providing behavioral health, we are not able to continue our mission.”
Those thousands of patients will now be transitioned into already full practices, like Grayson and Associates.
“They have a lot of patients,” Dr. Armand Schachter, Grayson and Associates said. “That will require a concerted effort from most of the psychiatrists in the state to try to help patients find a new psychiatry home.”
The waiting list is already a month long and the closures of APS means a crunch for other psychiatrists who already are under-staffed and at-capacity.
“We’re already extremely busy,” Dr. Schachter said. “When we get a new doctor, they fill their practice fast. this will add a host of established patients. The waiting time to see a psychiatrist will get longer.”
“I think it’s very critical,” Joy Doering, President, National Alliance of Mental Health, Birmingham said. “I really do.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Birmingham says with only one mental health hospital left in the state, they’re concerned about patients getting medication.
“The closing of Alabama Psychiatric Services is going to make it more difficult for people to find a psychiatrist, to get into see one quickly,” Doering said.
So what happens next?
“I don’t know,” Doering said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know. What are people going to do?