Mental health center nears completion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Almost a year ago, West Alabama Mental Health began seeking out options for expansion to accommodate their growing day program services. In just a few weeks, construction will be complete on their new day program facility on U.S. Highway 80.

What was once a Pizza Hut and later a SpeeDee Cash, has been completely transformed into a facility with both a large multi-function area, an office and storage space. The facility will accommodate the center&8217;s day programs, which currentlyMental health center nears completion serve 44 Marengo County residents daily in one small room.

Barnes said the extra space will allow them to move their entire operation of the day programs, which is a significant portion of the client base they serve, including both the receptionist, workers and case management team into one place.

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The main area of the facility will be outfitted with a kitchenette and other furnishings so clients can practice socialization skills such as cooking, cleaning and basic grooming. Barnes said these services are crucial in keeping their clients at a stable functioning level.

Their day program attendants are usually individuals who, without proper care, would be in and out of local and state hospitals, Barnes said. If their staff can keep them participating in the program, they are less likely to require costly hospital stays and long term care.

Barnes said she also envisions the new center as a place for ongoing group meetings so those clients who have transitioned into the workforce can come back and share their experiences with other people who are working to do the same thing.

The building itself will carry another special meaning for the people who have worked with WAMH over the years. It will be named in honor of the Caroline Matthews, Nathan Watkins and the late Hugh Lloyd.

Matthews started out as a volunteer for WAMH and retired in 2003 as an employee of the center in prevention services. Nathan Watkins is a former district attorney for the 17th judicial circuit and a current board member for WAMH. Lloyd is a former board member and longtime advocate for the mentally ill.