Hulsey brings perspective to legislature's focus on expanding mental health

Hulsey brings perspective to legislature’s focus on expanding mental health

Leigh Hulsey joins the Alabama House of Representatives with a wealth of relevant experience, from owning and operating two small businesses to 14 years of service on the Helena City Council.

And Hulsey will bring a unique perspective to the House as the mother of a son, Cade, on the autism spectrum.

This perspective has led Hulsey to make changes to benefit people with autism in the town of Helena, and she hopes to continue making a difference at the Statehouse.

“It’s something the Lord used to create change,” Hulsey said.

Hulsey began working with the council and the Helena Police Department to implement training for officers to recognize people on the spectrum or with other mental challenges.

“This training for police and firefighters helps them to be able to recognize people with ASD, PTSD – we call them ‘invisible disabilities,'” Hulsey said. “Our Chief of Police was very open to the idea and jumped in…Learning to defend your child is a difficult thing, but it’s a beautiful thing for the Lord to sift through these things and make a difference for the future.”

Hulsey hopes to expand this training statewide to ensure officers can identify and respond appropriately when encountering a citizen who needs a different approach.

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Hulsey also worked alongside KultureCity, which provides law enforcement training, to create a distinctive license plate that can now be purchased in Alabama to signal to law enforcement that the driver or occupant of the vehicle has an invisible handicap.

The Alabama Legislature has used Covid funds to rapidly expand mental health infrastructure over the past two sessions and Hulsey wants to make sure it remains a priority for the state.

“What I keep hearing about is the mental health crisis in our state that we’re facing,” Hulsey said. “It is time for our state to put our money where our mouth is; people have to be taken care of… We have had great benefits for our son’s mental health, and very little intervention is done because we spent all these years in treatment for him at an early age. But I meet families who did not have access to it and who still have trouble finding standards. It breaks my heart.

Along with mental health, Hulsey identified school choice, infrastructure and inflation as the top three concerns she heard from residents while knocking on doors during the campaign trail.

School choice has been a difficult topic that Republicans have wrestled with, as a bill was introduced last session but did not move forward.

Hulsey said his experience on the campaign trail was that his district was also incredibly divided.

“It’s going to make it a little bit more difficult for my district in particular,” Hulsey said. “I’ve spoken to others who have run for other seats, and they’re going through the complete opposite; their districts are either very pro-school choice or anti-school choice. Mine seems very divided, at least on the doorstep.

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Hulsey suggested the two sides need to come together and find some kind of consensus on how to move forward.

“I think it would be very helpful if opposing parties heard each other’s concerns and came to a consensus to give me a better way of how to represent them,” Hulsey said. “It’s the most divided they’ve been on any issue, outside of the game.”

Along with tackling her district’s top concerns, Hulsey said she also enjoys digging on the budgeting side.

“I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to manage taxpayers’ money wisely, to know that I’m accountable for all of these things through the experience of the board,” Hulsey said. “I want to start diving into this at the state level, start understanding how it works.”

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