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Bright tours Montezuma, advocates less spending

Congressman Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) was visibly moved by his tour of the South Central Mental Health Board’s Montezuma Center Friday afternoon.

The center, located on Academy Drive, provides daily training for those with intellectual disabilities, a residential setting for the intellectually disabled, and a residential addiction recovery program for those hooked on alcohol and drugs.

There is a statewide waiting list for the addiction recovery program, substance abuse director Donna Beasley said, adding that man are dependent upon prescription drugs.

There are 18 beds in the all-male program at Montezuma, she explained, adding that clients must be medically stable and detoxed before they are admitted.

The facility also offers outpatient services for substance abuse, she said.

SCAMH director Dianne Baugher said her department recently began transitioning clients out of the residential setting into apartments and a group home as part of a statewide census reduction initiative.

“We’ve had a wonderful reception,” she said.

Bright, who said he had a family member who was institutionalized when he was a child, said, “It’s been educational for me to be here, and it’s heartening to see the facility like this. Thank you for making it so nice.”

Referencing his early experiences visiting the family member, he said, “It was not as caring, clean and maintained as what you do here.”

He also shared the story of an intellectually-challenged cousin who wasn’t institutionalized, but who was always kept in the background.

“It’s easy to shove people who have problems to the back door, and I have some first-hand knowledge of that,” he said. “This facility is something to be proud of.”

Baugher explained that the SCAMH worked with 4,095 clients in four counties from October through July of this year. Of those, 2,601 were being treated for mental health issues; 1,929 for substance abuse; and 415 for intellectual disabilities.

Bright said he is sensitive to the needs of SCAMH and other mental health agencies, but said he doesn’t support additional federal spending. Earlier last week, he voted against a bill to provide states money for schools and Medicaid.

“It hurt to vote no,” Bright said. “But the federal government can’t continue to bail everybody out. We are $13 trillion in debt and it keeps piling on.

“As a state, we need to man-up and do what (we) need financially to do to create revenue,” Bright said.

Last week’s “bail out” bill was funded but cutting future food stamps and closing tax loopholes, he said.

“If we can do that, we ought to be able to do it to tighten our budget,” he said.

Bright spent the day in Andalusia, beginning with lunch at C.J’s and visiting the Bass Agency, Comfort Care Hospice, and Vector Aerospace before attending the Andalusia High School Hall of Fame banquet Friday night.

Clients in Montezuma’s intellectual disability outpatient program made the sign, above, to welcome Congressman Bobby Bright to Andalusia on Friday. Bright, who is shown with Southeast Alabama Mental Health Center’s executive director Dianne Baugher.