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WAMH receives Bristol-Myers Squibb grant

DEMOPOLIS &8212; On Dec. 5, West Alabama Mental Health received notification they were the recipients of a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb, a process that has been in the works for the last five years, executive director Kelley Parris-Barnes said Friday.

The grant partners the five counties WAMH services &8212; Choctaw, Hale, Greene, Marengo and Sumter &8212; with Cahaba Mental Health Center, which serves Perry, Wilcox and Dallas counties. The program will also assist in Lowndes, Pickens and Macon counties.

The grant is a comprehensive funding source that will be available to both WAMH and the partners they have made for 3-5 years. In the first year alone, WAMH has made plans to utilize $332,467 of the overall $1.2 million made available to all of the partners each year of the grant.

The first component of the plan will be to start a pilot program that will utilize a mobile unit to bring care to patients with the assistance of skilled nurses who will be linked to a licensed psychiatrist via satellite at the time of service, a practice known as telemedicine.

The first area to gain access to this program will be in Hale, Wilcox and Pickens counties. Barnes said the mobile unit is receiving repairs and upgrades. At least $32,000 of the funds are set aside for that purpose. She expects the unit to begin running service by Feb. 1, 2008.

Other provisions in the grant are to pay for two $90,000 psychiatric fellowships, one for WAMH and another for CAMC.

Barnes said the grant would not be made possible without the partners they have made. Other future partners are with the College of Community Health Sciences Rural Health Program at the University of Alabama. Barnes also hopes to work with Auburn University&8217;s Rural Studio program to provide some kind of housing for the people they serve.

Barnes said she is &8220;very optimistic&8221; about the future of both this new grant program and the other programs they have been a part of, including the recent partnership with the Delta Rural Access Program, which provides prescription assistance for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Barnes sees the future as a time where several factors have combined to &8220;bring up the Black Belt.&8221; She cited Governor Bob Riley&8217;s recent announcement to expand the Pre-K offerings in the state along with the leadership of the two-year college system under Bradley Byrne as factors that should produce a well-educated workforce, which will in turn benefit the region as a whole.