MONTGOMERY, AL (08/08/2013)(readMedia)-- The transfer of ownership ceremony of the Lurleen B. Wallace Development Center in Decatur, Alabama was conducted at 9a.m., Thursday, August 8, 2013 between the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama National Guard. The facility opened in Decatur on September 1, 1971, and was the state's first regional developmental mental health center, with 40 residents. Serving a 13-county region in North Alabama, this state of the art facility grew to 193 residents by the end of its first year of operation. At its peak in 1975 it had 400 residents and over 650 employees. Over time, more and better community resources were developed, and the center closed its doors on October 31, 2003.
The property has been vacant since the DMH halted operations there. The DMH is transferring ownership to the Alabama National Guard to be repurposed as a regional training facility. The 160 acre property will serve as a site for field training exercises and annual training for Alabama's Guard units. It will feature barracks, a medical facility, a dining facility, a fitness center, and classrooms. The site is estimated to be complete by 2018, culminating with a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Training Center. The property is state owned, but will be authorized federal funds for support.
"Because of the advancements in care for people with developmental disabilities, the need for the Wallace Center no longer exists for the Department of Mental Health," Alabama's Governor Robert Bentley said. "A transfer of this property will allow the Alabama National Guard to re-purpose the property for a regional training center for our guardsmen. Our guardsmen deserve a first-class training center, and the Wallace Center is a perfect location for training. I appreciate Senator Orr for leading this process, and the Department of Mental Health and Alabama National Guard for making it a reality. Today's announcement is a prime example of what government agencies can do when it works together."
"After many years of showing this facility to private businesses, quasi government groups and others for purchase, I am grateful that under the leadership of Governor Bentley and General Smith we are putting this significant state asset back to use in a very positive way to support our men and women in uniform," said Alabama Senator Arthur Orr. "The people of Morgan County were disheartened to see such a beautiful facility of over 160 acres and 20 plus large brick buildings not being used and falling into disrepair. We have today a great story of putting this facility back into service to benefit both the taxpayers and our military."
"Acquiring this facility for the Alabama National Guard is a momentous occasion," said Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama's adjutant general. "This location will serve as a great multi-purpose training site for the Guard and possibly others in the foreseeable future."