Gov. Ivey responds to questions about Searcy Hospital

(IMG: WPMI) Gov. Ivey responds to questions about Searcy hospital

It was an abrupt end for many in 2012. Patients in need of mental health care and staff members forced out when Searcy Hospital closed down.

Tuesday Alabama Governor Kay Ivey was on the Gulf Coast. We asked her about the abandoned mental health facility.

Mobile County Health Officer Dr. Bert Eichold feels the same way he felt years ago.

"We need the mental health hospital," he said.

Searcy Hospital still stands but it's been closed for six years now. A closure that has caused a domino effect within the jail system.

"The data shows that 44 percent of the persons who are under conditions of confinement have an underlying mental health problem," Eichold said.

Eichold says that alone causes jail overcrowding. So he suggests repurposing Searcy to a mental health correctional facility that houses nonviolent offenders

"Jails and prisons are not really good facilities to treat mental health problems," he said.

In 2017 he sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey asking her to look into his suggestion.

Ivey says she had the Alabama Mental Health Department look into it but funding is an issue.

"While it would be nice to have more business brought back to Mt. Vernon, the infrastructure costs for outdated structures would be millions of dollars," she said.

Eichold says he knows it will take millions but it's a possible solution to a growing problem in Mobile County.

"I'm always discouraged when we say we don't have enough money to do what we need to do, but I understand how complex of an issue this is," he said. "Why not reactivate Searcy? We already own it. I know it's cheaper to fix something up than it is to build something new."

NBC 15 News will continue to follow this story and update you as we learn more.

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