Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Bryce Hospital Museum opens in Tuscaloosa

The Alabama Department of Mental Health recently celebrated the opening of the Bryce Hospital Museum in Tuscaloosa.

Department and state leaders said the museum will serve as a reminder of Alabama’s legacy and role in America’s mental health landscape transformation. 

“We are proud to open the Bryce Hospital Museum, honoring the profound history of mental health care in Alabama,” ADMH Commissioner Kim Boswell said. “Bryce Hospital has been a cornerstone in the state’s journey of mental health care and as a beacon of innovation and service.”

The museum is at the Catherine and Pettus Randall Welcome Center at the University of Alabama, in what used to be a portion of the former hospital building. It includes collections of photographs, artifacts and exhibits honoring the history and progress of mental health care, ADMH said in a release.

“The Bryce Museum is a testament to our state’s renewed commitment to supporting mental health care,” Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said in a written statement later. “Our work has only just begun, and I look forward to our continued efforts to move Alabama’s crisis care system forward.”

According to the ADMH, Bryce Hospital opened its doors to its first mental health patient in 1861 to a Civil War soldier. It was once renowned for the use of moral treatment in service to individuals and innovative architecture.

Gov. Lurleen Wallace persuaded the Alabama Legislature to invest in mental health facilities in the 1960s after visiting Bryce. 

A newer Bryce Hospital is one of three remaining state mental health hospitals, all of them in Tuscaloosa.

During the recession more than a decade ago, lawmakers slashed mental health funding — and that of other agencies — and changed the way the department provides services. In more recent years, the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey renewed the focus and funding for mental health, including the state’s Crisis System of Care

Since its creation, six crisis centers have been funded through the Legislature, according to the ADMH website. 

“No individual is immune from the impact of untreated behavioral health needs,” the website reads. “Each year, there are thousands of preventable tragedies that may be addressed with proper mental health resources and access to care.”

The system of care includes the national 988 emergency hotline, as well as mobile crisis care, according to its website. Nationwide, people in mental health crisis have been able to call or text 988 since July 2022. The federal act that created the hotline also authorizes states to assess a fee for providing 988 and crisis services.

In less than two years, 80,000 Alabamians have dialed or texted 988, Boswell previously told Alabama Daily News. 

In the fiscal 2025 budget, ADMH has a $24 million increase over the current year to nearly $238 million. A large portion of that is for staffing at the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa, Boswell said. All three of the state’s mental health hospitals have had staffing shortages in recent years, but Taylor Hardin’s has been the worst. Meanwhile, that hospital for the criminally committed is expanding and needs even more personnel.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia