State agencies in Alabama and Mississippi each got $12 million from BP Monday, part of $52 million the company directed for mental health work through five agencies.
Spokespeople in both places said the money would go to community-based crisis response programs.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health, which had asked BP for $100 million over five years, said it welcomes the additional resources.
The money, according to department spokesman John Ziegler, will put additional counselors in the field in Mobile and Baldwin counties, where they will canvass neighborhoods, marinas and communities.
“In a crisis such as this, you have to get out among the people,” Ziegler said. “This is not a situation where most people would walk into an office and say, ‘I’m having mental health problems.'”
Ziegler said the programs would be similar to those implemented in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
The money comes at a time when Mississippi providers are reporting a spike in domestic violence and substance abuse, according to Wendy Bailey, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.
“Our mental health system on the coast is already stretched to capacity,” Bailey said.
Mississippi will also model its crisis response after a program it put in place following Katrina, she said.
Bailey said BP told state officials this was “an initial contribution,” but she doesn’t know if more money will be coming from the oil giant that is the majority owner of the well that leaked crude into the Gulf.
In addition to the money aimed at Alabama and Mississippi, BP gave $10 million to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also known as SAMHSA; $15 million to the Louisiana Department of Mental Health and Hospitals; and $3 million to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region,” Lamar McKay, president of BP America and incoming leader of the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, said in a statement.
“As part of our determination to make things right for the people of the region, we are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn.”