Three of Alabama's largest psychiatric hospitals were closed in 2012 and the effects are still being felt in the Wiregrass.
By state law the probate judge is the only person who can commit patients to a psychiatric evaluation. The closures are putting a strain on Geneva County Probate Judge Fred Hamic. Hamic said he commits several patients a day, which further confirms how severe mental illness is in the county.
"We would do two three a week. We've done as many as eight in one day and we're talking about a little rural county with 26,000 thousand people," explained Hamic.
Where to properly treat and house the mentally ill in the community is turning out to be the bigger problem. Several state mental health hospitals have closed and Hamic said there is currently a shortage of secure psychiatric treatment beds available for those he commits to a psychiatric evaluation.
"I had three people in jail that should have been in a mental health hospital, but they were in jail because we had no place to put them," continued Hamic.
Houston County Probate Judge Patrick Davenport shared the same concern. Davenport said, "Finding a bed for someone to seek treatment for mental illness is difficult. We had occasions where every bed at the Southeast Alabama Medical Center is full and they have two floors of a psychiatric unit."