BMN Blog

AUG 02
PIRC: One Year Later

The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama has completed its inaugural year of operations, assisting more than 5,000 patients and callers seeking mental health expertise for children, adolescents and their families in central Alabama. The PIRC, established in March 2018 as a collaboration between Children’s and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope, is one of only three centers of its kind in the U.S. We are dedicated to identifying the right care at the right time and at the right place.


Of the 5,000 patients and callers who were assisted in our first year, more than 3,600 were evaluated in Children’s Emergency Department (ED) by our Psychiatric Consult Team, and more than 1,500 calls were received. The PIRC averaged 130 calls a month, reaching a peak number of 238 calls in April 2019. The PIRC’s location in the Children’s ED strengthened Children’s Behavioral Health’s relationship with the ED staff. This resulted in a decrease in the ED’s length of stay of psychiatric patients from 11.7 hours in 2015 to 7.3 hours in 2018.


Our success is also measured by our community footprint, as our team attended more than 100 community outreach events targeting our five-county area of focus – Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Walker and Blount counties. Our team is comprised of 13 expert licensed clinicians who have a combined experience of more than 240 years. Specialties include autism, intellectually-challenged individuals, sexually reactive behaviors and mood adjustment and conduct disorders.


In our continued outreach to mental health providers, community agencies and area schools, we are expanding the effort to connect caregivers with the appropriate mental health resources. For example, the PIRC has targeted area school systems to explain how our services may assist administrators, teachers and staff when mental and behavioral concerns arise. The school systems are Alabaster, Birmingham, Homewood, Hoover, Jefferson County, Mountain Brook, Pell City, Shelby County, St. Clair County and Vestavia.


What we’ve learned since the PIRC’s launch is that we provide a valuable service for parents, caregivers, educators, professionals and providers. We assist callers in navigating the mental health system. We hear relief in the voices of callers who gain understanding of what their child needs. We have also learned that children’s lives are different than they used to be and school can sometimes be a difficult place to manage. Because of this, caregivers struggle to understand and are at a loss on how to deal with the pain their child may be experiencing. This is when we’re able to listen to the callers’ concerns and guide them through the process of finding providers. It is rewarding to help callers sort through the confusion that comes with seeking help.


As we look toward the future, our plans include:


  • Expanding the database in higher call volume counties: Calhoun, Cullman, Etowah, Madison and Marshall.
  • Increasing our staff to meet high call volume demands.
  • Increasing follow-up phone calls to PIRC callers and the providers recommended to identify if access was successful.
  • Increasing community outreach, particularly among vulnerable populations such as minorities (Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ), low-income and rural communities.
  • Providing consultation to Birmingham City Schools in addressing the mental health challenges of its youth population.
  • Collaborating and supporting mental health initiatives at Children’s.


The PIRC is open seven days a week, year-round from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Any adult with a mental health question or concern regarding a child or adolescent is encouraged to call the PIRC at (205) 638-PIRC (7472).

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