Among the one in five Alabamians who will need
mental health services in their lifetimes are more
than 39,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Because deafness or hearing loss poses unique
challenges in coping with stresses of daily life and
with accessing and receiving treatment services, the
Alabama Department of Mental Health has established an Office of Deaf
Services to better serve deaf and hard of hearing
Over 4,000 individuals are served annually in the
state-operated facilities, while over 100,000 receive
services in certified
CULTURALLY AFFIRMATIVE SERVICES
People who are deaf or hard of hearing have
difficulty finding services that are linguistically
accessible to them. When they do find services where
someone "signs," often those services do not take
into account the special cultural considerations
that often make the difference between successful
treatment and relapse and recidivism. Our programs
will be designed by people who are deaf to not only
be linguistically accessible but also culturally
affirmative, giving the consumer every opportunity
to make progress to recovery.
Regionally Based Services
The heart of Alabama Department of Mental Health's deaf services program is a network of
regionally based staff that specializes in working with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Both clinicians and communication access team members work out of regional offices in order to be closer to consumers they serve. Based in community mental health centers, these coordinators are the first point of contact for services.
A network of small group homes has grown to serve as a vital part of a system of care, helping deaf people with mental illness who are need stable, but not ready to live independently in the community. Admission to the group homes is coordinated by the regional coordinators in conjunction with the local community mental health centers overseeing the programs. There are currently two 3-bed group homes in Birmingham which are run by Jefferson/Blount/St. Clair Mental Health Authority. Another 3-bed group home in Mobile is run by the AltaPointe Health Systems. A 3-bed home for older deaf people near Huntsville is operated by Mountain Lakes Behavioral Health Center. There is also a 6-bed home in Clanton, designed for more challenging consumers, operated by Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center. All these programs have ASL fluent staff.
Mental Health Interpreter Training
Additional information can also be found at
We have established a special training for
interpreters to help them work better in mental health
settings. This training will lead to a special
certification as a qualified mental health interpreter.
Alabama is the first state in the nation to specifically
define what skills and knowledge are needed to work
effectively as an interpreter in mental health settings.
These standards are part of the Code of Alabama. See
Available Documents for additional information.
Peer-Reviewed Article Written by ODS Staff
Alabama Department of Mental Health is committed to developing the BEST
program for people with hearing loss in the country.
We will also be working to develop:
- Teaching deaf and hard of hearing people about
mental illness and substance abuse, emphasizing the
potential for recovery.
- Training for facilities and providers to help
them understand the importance of culturally and
linguistically appropriate services.
- Intense and focused training for clinicians who
work with clients who are deaf.
- A special program to train psychiatrists to work
with deaf or hard of hearing people.
- A training program to teach deaf and hard of
hearing people to work as clinical professionals in