CCHS to Enhance, Expand Services at Brewer-Porch Children’s Center

November 5, 2020

Operation of The University of Alabama Brewer-Porch Children’s Center transitioned from the University’s College of Arts and Sciences to its College of Community Health Sciences on October 1.

Brewer-Porch provides behavioral health care and educational services for children, adolescents and their families both locally and from across Alabama. With the transition, the center also stands to expand its role as a teaching and research site for UA students and as a venue for innovative approaches to clinical practice in children’s mental health, with the potential of becoming a national leader in the care of children with behavioral health needs and their families.

“Brewer-Porch Children’s Center meets a critical need in the state of Alabama, serving children and families from more than half of the counties in the state,” said Dr. Joseph Messina, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “With a strong clinical emphasis, Brewer-Porch is a natural fit within UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, and Brewer-Porch is poised to benefit from the resources available to CCHS as a provider of health care. We want the impact of Brewer-Porch on the state’s most vulnerable populations to continue to grow and aligning Brewer-Porch with the University’s clinicians in psychiatry and behavioral health is a step in that direction.”

CCHS provides clinical education to students at the UA School of Medicine, as well as graduate medical education through its UA Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency for new medical school graduates pursing primary-care specialties. The College also operates University Medical Center, the largest multi-specialty community medical practice in West Alabama with locations in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Demopolis and more than 150,000 patient visits last year.

The College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health faculty include psychiatrists, psychologists and other providers with experience and expertise in child and adolescent mental health care, and who also practice at UMC.

“The decision of the Alabama Legislature in the 1970s to embed a children’s center within the University to capitalize on the University’s resources and to inform a service, teaching and research mission is extremely unique and holds great promise. This is most likely achieved with Brewer-Porch as part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at CCHS,” said Dr. Thad Ulzen, professor chair of the department and a practicing psychiatrist at UMC.

Dr. Richard Friend, dean of CCHS, said the College will collaborate with the College of Arts and Sciences on the Brewer-Porch program and continue the ongoing activities there, which are linked to UA’s mission of service, teaching and research.

“CCHS is proud to serve Brewer-Porch Children’s Center. Our health-care team and health-related services will benefit this unique population of children. Brewer-Porch will become part of our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, which has leaders in child and adolescent mental health care,” Friend said.

He said CCHS is committed to ongoing collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences and others across the UA campus for educational and research opportunities going forward. “It is an honor to carry on the long outstanding work that Arts and Sciences has done at this facility,” Friend said. “Dr. Messina and I are committed to ensuring a smooth transition over the next few months.”

Brewer-Porch Executive Director Dr. Ross Grimes said Brewer-Porch has assisted thousands of children and families with emotional and behavioral health, many with histories of abuse or neglect.

“Many of our clients have been able to graduate high school, attend college or vocational programs, obtain gainful employment and raise families, overcoming substantial barriers and allowing them to lead successful lives,” Grimes said.

Friend said primary-care health services will also be provided on-site at Brewer-Porch from CCHS faculty physicians in family medicine and pediatrics. In addition, CCHS plans to strengthen efforts on behalf of Brewer-Porch to promote primary prevention programs in the community to complement the center’s existing programs, Ulzen said.

Brewer-Porch services currently range from intensive outpatient to residential. Treatment is based on an interdisciplinary approach and the treatment team includes nurses, psychologists, teachers, social workers, therapists, mental health works, and consulting psychiatrists and dietitians. Further, an increased emphasis on primary mental health prevention programs is envisioned with guidance from the CCHS Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

Brewer-Porch has served more than 300 clients from 44 Alabama counties over the past three years and has 107 employees. It was established by the Alabama Legislature in 1970 to provide a model treatment program for Alabama’s special-needs children, adolescents and their families. The Center is named for Albert Brewer, a former governor of Alabama, and Ralph Porch, a former legislator.