BMN Blog

JUL 26
PIRC helps communities navigate mental health care system

Children’s of Alabama in collaboration with the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope launched a new service in March 2018 targeting patients, families and providers who seek better access to mental health care resources. The Psychiatric Intake Response Center, or PIRC, located in Children’s Emergency Department, is staffed by licensed mental health clinicians who, via telephone or in person, assess a child or adolescent’s mental, emotional and behavioral needs, and recommend the best treatment options.

Anyone with a mental health question or concern regarding a child or adolescent is encouraged to contact the PIRC at (205) 638-PIRC (7472). The PIRC is open seven days a week, year-round from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The service has averaged 80 calls per month since its rollout.

Clinicians assess risk factors, answer questions about mental health concerns and provide community resource information and safety planning. Clinicians also aim to match patients and their families with mental health services and providers in a five-county area (Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Blount and Walker). The PIRC has developed a database of more than 500 mental health resources available in this area.

The PIRC is only among three of its kind in the U.S. – the others being in Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio. Children’s has afforded the opportunity to offer an innovative and much-needed service to central Alabama. There is a nationwide trend of increased volume of pediatric psychiatric visits to emergency room. The PIRC’s mission is to help guide patients and their families to the most appropriate level of care.

For high-risk children and teens who may need services in Children’s Emergency Department, the PIRC will provide crisis evaluations on a first-come, first-served basis, considering treatment room availability and urgency. Patients will be assessed by a mental health team of board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists, fellows, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and PIRC staff to determine the appropriate level of care. The PIRC does not provide over-the-phone diagnoses or psychiatric evaluations, over-the-phone scheduling or rescheduling of outpatient appointments, home visits, transportation, or prescriptions or refills.

We emphasize the PIRC is not a suicide hotline, but instead a valuable resource for parents, teachers, counselors, grandparents, foster parents or anyone who seeks mental health services on a child’s behalf. Anyone experiencing a crisis or suicidal thoughts should call 911 and/or the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

For more information about the PIRC, visit

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