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$12 million drug lab, mental heath center coming to Dothan

State Representative Steve Clouse calls these “game changers” for law enforcement, behavioral care.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:52 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WTVY) -A drug forensics lab and mental health crises center will be constructed in Dothan at a combined cost of about $12 million.

“I think (these) are game changers,” State Representative Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) said of the projects during a News 4 interview on Tuesday. He is the House budget chairman.

The forensics lab means law enforcement will no longer need make burdensome trips to Montgomery and Auburn to deliver suspected drugs to labs, then wait months for results.

“This (Dothan lab) will help serve those agencies by providing them faster turn around time and faster analysis,” said Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Director Angelo Della Manna.

That will benefit prosecutors, who are unable to move forward with criminal cases until results are complete.

The lab will also provide rapid assessment of synthetic drugs that Della Manna calls the deadliest.

“(Those) drugs we are seeing in our community are lethal at first dose,” he told News 4.

A likely location is along Ennis Road, near the Wiregrass Public Safety Center, though Della Manna said nothing has been finalized.

Work on the $5.3 million project will begin in a few months.

The Mental Health Crises Center in Dothan will become the sixth in the Alabama.

“People will have somewhere to go when they have psychotic issues and substance abuse issues,” Clouse said of the center.

Alabama’s Department of Mental Health Commissioner Kim Boswell points out that many hospitals offer no behavioral care, leaving those with mental struggles few options.

“Getting to a psychiatrist can take six weeks,” she said.

However, help centers like the one planned for Dothan can get patients analyzed in a few hours.

“(Services will be) open to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay and provide immediate access to a psychiatrist and a good quality assessment,” Boswell told News 4.

Beds for 23 hours will be provided for those who need further evaluation.

The center, operated by Spectracare Healthcare Systems, will be an invaluable tool for law enforcement who must often take those with behavioral problems to jail because no other immediate options are available.

Clouse believes emergency mental health centers are essential in reducing the state inmate population.

“This will be an area to get people the help they need and, hopefully, they won’t need to go to prison and will get their lives straightened out,” he said.

Mental health funding will increase from $167 million to $183 million in the general fund budget.

The House passed that spending plan 100-0 on Tuesday and it is expected to sail through the Senate.

The Dothan crises center operated by Spectracare could be operational by spring 2023.

This story updated to reflect that Mr. Della Manna said no final location selection has been made.

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