Important Mental Health Resource for Alabama Parents: PIRC

Healthy Living Childrens PIRC article image DeepBreaths

Healthy Living

Navigating the mental health care system can be challenging for patients, families and providers. Add to that, a COVID-19 pandemic that upended nearly all aspects of ‘normal’ life almost overnight. However, the team of clinicians who make up the Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama continued to connect adult callers to mental health resources when they needed it the most. “The pandemic forced everyone to recognize children were in crisis before and even more so now,” said PIRC Director Cindy Jones.

PIRC is a collaboration between Children’s of Alabama and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation for Hope. It opened in 2018 to connect adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens. Calls are answered by licensed mental health clinicians trained to assess a child or teen’s emotional and behavioral needs. PIRC is open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Any adult with a mental health question or concern regarding their child is encouraged to call 205-638-7472. The PIRC is only one of three of its kind in the country. The team at Children’s of Alabama has established itself as a strong group of expert clinicians. Each member of the team brings his or her own skill set, with specialties including ADHD, autism, developmental delays, sexually reactive behaviors, mood and psychotic disorders and behavioral concerns such as conduct disorders. 

In its first 12 months of service, PIRC took more than 1,100 calls and had a database of more than 1,000 mental health providers representing every county in Alabama. In 2020, PIRC received more than 1,900 calls, and its database has grown to more than 1,600 providers. “When someone calls the PIRC, we are able to briefly assess the situation and point them in the right direction,” Jones said. “We’ve done a lot of research and know the mental health providers in your community. Calling us helps you save time and energy so that you may focus on providing the support your child needs.”

Warning Signs. Jones said parents should watch for these signs of mental distress occurring more than two weeks in their children: Isolating themselves, changes in eating habits, unexplained weight changes, changes in sleeping habits, mood swings, increased irritability and frustration, frequent crying spells and violent, aggressive outbursts. Once these signs are identified, call the PIRC to find the appropriate mental health treatment for your child. 

As the pandemic wore on, caregivers and children alike struggled to adapt to the ‘new normal.’ The strain of uncertainty, fear, isolation, depression, anxiety and frustration associated with the pandemic took its toll and has not let up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted for 2020 that “emergency rooms have seen a 24 percent increase in mental health-related visits from children ages 5 to 11 compared to last year (2019). The increase among older kids is even higher — 31 percent.” Rates of suicidal thinking and behavior were up by 25 percent or more from similar periods in 2019, according to researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics. At Children’s in 2020, the PIRC team was called in for more than 2,900 psychiatric consults in the emergency department, and 51 percent of those required inpatient stabilization. Clinicians emphasize the PIRC is not a suicide or crisis hotline, but instead a valuable resource for parents, physicians, school nurses, teachers, counselors, grandparents, foster parents or anyone who is seeking mental health services on a child’s behalf. PIRC does not provide over the phone diagnoses. 

Anyone experiencing a crisis should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information, visit †

Hend Walton feature image

Healthy Living

For Dr. Lucy Sanders, her profession as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist is much more than a job or even a career. “I feel like it’s definitely a calling. I believe the service part of being a physician- taking care of people- is what I am led to do,” Dr. Sanders says. Her faith impacts how she interacts with patients. “I pray for patients, and I pray with patients. I feel that this gives a holistic approach to taking care of people.”

Dr. Sanders
Dr. Lucy Sanders received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She returned home to Alabama to attend the University of Alabama School of Medicine where she received her Medical Degree and completed her residency training. She sees patients at HWWC’s Birmingham and Tuscaloosa locations.

Dr. Sanders’ time at Henderson & Walton Women’s Center (HWWC), P.C. didn’t begin when she joined the practice more than one year ago. In fact, Dr. Sanders was born at St. Vincents Hospital via Henderson & Walton! “I was also a patient for years before entering medical school, so it was an easy decision to start working at Henderson & Walton,” she explains.

Dr. Sanders is the daughter of long time Birmingham Pediatrician, Dr. Bill Johnston. His legacy inspired her to become a physician. “I loved watching him interact with his patients and going out in the community and running into his patients,” she says, adding, “He seemed to really love what he did. It’s kind of like a family business; it motivated me to try to pursue the same kind of career and that was medicine for me as well.”

Dr. Sanders is passionate about connecting with patients and helping them navigate their personal health journeys. “I love being able to develop relationships with my patients,” she says.

HendersonWalton LOGOFor more than 30 years, Henderson & Walton Women’s Center has been specializing in women’s health care in the Birmingham and surrounding areas. All the OB/GYN physicians, including Dr. Sanders, are board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. For patient convenience, HWWC sees patients in Birmingham, Alabaster, Chelsea, Cullman, Rainbow City/Gadsden, Jasper and Tuscaloosa. To learn more about Dr. Sanders and the team of physicians and staff at Henderson & Walton Women’s Center, P.C., visit or call 205-930-1800.

-Melissa Armstrong 


Special Feature

Hopes Door Logo1 in 3 women experience abusive relationships. Does your partner make you emotionally, physically, or financially dependent? Isolate you from seeing your friends, family, or children? Forbid you from going anywhere or seeing anyone? Threaten to take away your child or children? Become angry when you speak to the opposite sex? Control when you can speak or what to think? Criticize you about how your dress and appearance? Blame you for their problems? Threaten to hurt you with violence or a weapon? Act excessively jealous or possessive? Have an explosive temper and use force during an argument threaten to commit suicide if you leave? Have a history of violence? Constantly put you down making feel worthless? Limit your access to the phone or your car? Accuse you of being disloyal or unfaithful? Embarrass  you in front of others? Harm or threaten to harm you pets? Get physically violent and kick, push, choke, or slap you?? Any of the above are abusive behaviors. Call Hope’s Door for Safety Planning, Referrals, and Free Faith Based Counseling. If you are in danger please refer to the emergency numbers listed.

Shelby County- SAFEHOUSE 205-669-7233 (24/7)

King’s Home-  205-618-0300

Jefferson County- YWCA 205-322-4878

Alabama Domestic- Violence Crisis Line 800-650-6522

National Domestic Violence Hotline- 800-799-7233

Sexual Violence Hotline- 800-656-4673

We are in need of donated campers for our Housing Hope Project. Contact us for more information at, call 205-677-3041 or visit †

Healthy Living

Are you struggling with grief over losing a loved one? Keep reading for five helpful tips.

1. Expectations. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself during this holiday season as you grieve. Allow yourself to mourn and don’t avoid mourning for fear of upsetting others. Expect that exposure to the holiday season and its rituals will impact you in different, perhaps even unexpected ways.  You may experience unexpected grief resurgences of varying intensities or you may not. Make certain that you have outlets for your grief.  Take time alone and/or with trusted friends and family members, as needed, to be with your grief.  Grief resurgences in response to the sudden, expected awareness of a loved one’s absence are a natural part of the survivorship experience and can be triggered by exposure to anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other festive occasions.

2. Traditions. It’s been my experience that survivors contend with their first exposure to the end-of-year holiday season by embracing tradition (engaging in familiar holiday rituals) or making a radical departure from tradition (spending the holidays out-of-town, for instance). If you plan on embracing tradition, feel free to cut back, if needed, on the amount of time and energy you spend purchasing gifts, decorating your home, preparing meals, attending holiday gatherings, and so forth. Assess your own energy level to determine how much exposure you can handle at any time and adjust accordingly.

3. Communication. Speak with your family members and friends concerning your needs and how they can assist. Ask for their accommodation and understanding.

4. Memorialization. There are many different, creative ways of memorializing your deceased loved one during the holiday season. Incorporate these into your holiday regimen where appropriate.

5. Education. Community Grief Support is hosting several “Hope for the Holidays” community seminars on November 6, November 13, and November 20. Click on the individual dates to find more information on each of the seminars.

-Steve Sweatt, LPC-S/LMFT

Clinical and Co-Executive Director

Community Grief Support


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Healthy Living

As we step into the cooler temperatures of fall, the team at T. Fox SalonSpa is ready to help you look your best when it comes to having healthy hair and skin. Here’s 3 ideas to add to your health regimen this fall.

Specialist Maddie
Specialist Maddie

1. Give Your Skin a Lift! T Fox SalonSpa Specialist Maddie suggests AVEDA’s Organic Facial which she customizes to your skin health needs.


  • Plant based ingredients
  • Customized results
  • Anti-aging treatments
  • Restores radiance
Artist Brooke
Artist Brooke

2. Give Your Hair a Boost! T Fox SalonSpa Artist Brooke can show you how an AVEDA Shine Botanic Treatment will do the trick.


  • Adds Shine
  • Tames Frizz
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Artist Emily
Artist Emily

3. Update Your Fall Look! TFox SalonSpa Artist and color expert Emily will give you a beautiful, fresh fall look with AVEDA Balayage Color.


  • Organic and Vegan color
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For more ideas on how to best care for your hair and skin visit the T. Fox SalonSpa Facebook page where every Tuesday the team posts a Tuesday Care Tip The team also invites you to stop by the SalonSpa on Valleydale Road in Hoover to learn more.

– Brought to you by T. Fox SALONSPA, Top 200 Salon in North America by Salon Today

2080 Valleydale Road, Hoover, AL 35244


T- Fox SalonSpa is offering a READERS’ REWARDS COUPON FOR MONTH OF OCTOBER! A $20 GIFT for first time guests! Click here for this reward and more!

bigstock Marijuana Effects On The Brain 312760105

Healthy Living

Community Partner Logo 20 Years 150x150Brought to you by: Community Partner COMPACT,

Parents, if you found marijuana in your child’s room, would you be able to identify it? Let’s discuss its characteristics. Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, or seeds of a cannabis sativa plant. The words marijuana and cannabis are often used interchangeably. Throughout the years, the level of THC in marijuana has continually gone up. The levels of THC in the marijuana throughout the 1970s-1990s was about 13%. However, the THC levels of today’s marijuana can be as high as 99%.

How is marijuana ingested into the body? People who use marijuana may roll loose marijuana leaves into a cigarette- called a joint. Others may smoke it in a pipe or water pipe. It’s often mixed into foods called edibles. Another popular method on the rise is vaping THC. Researchers have found that the use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties. Therefore, marijuana use among our teens remains a natural concern for parents and is the focus of research- specifically on its impact on brain development which continues through a person’s early twenties.

What are the effects marijuana has on the body? THC is structurally similar to chemicals produced naturally by the body called endocannabinoids which play a role in normal brain development function. Because of the endocannabinoid system, marijuana can have multiple effects not just on the brain but on the entire body. Some of these effects are short-term and last only as long as marijuana is in the body. Some of these effects are attention and memory problems that can hinder the learning process, poor coordination and motor skills, anxiety, paranoia and even psychosis. However, if there is continued use over a longer period of time, it can cause long-term problems that can last a lifetime. Examples include risk of chronic cough or bronchitis, recurring episodes of severe nausea and vomiting, and risk of addiction. Marijuana is harmful to the brain and the body. The best way to know how marijuana will affect your body is to not use it at all because it only takes one time to become addicted. Visit us on Facebook @Compact2020 and on our website for more strategies aimed at reducing substance misuse and promoting mental wellness. You can also call us on our parent talk line, 205-605-1827. †


Arielle McFarland

Healthy Living

19-year-old Arielle McFarland enjoys painting, attends Lawson State Community College and is a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. She lives a very active life despite having a severe blood disorder called sickle cell anemia hemoglobin SS. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited gene from both parents. Sickle cells are abnormally-shaped red blood cells that can stick to blood vessel walls causing blockage and preventing the cells from carrying oxygen through the body. When this happens, it causes a pain crisis.

Arielle McFarland
Vestavia’s Arielle McFarland is able to attend college despite having a high risk and complex blood disorder. With the help of Children’s of Alabama, she manages her disease well with medication and a monthly red blood cell exchange.

Arielle was diagnosed with the disease by a screening at birth. “Her father and I knew we had the sickle cell gene, and there was a one-in-four chance for each pregnancy that our child could be born with it,” said Arielle’s mother Sophia McFarland. Arielle was six months old when she had her first pain crisis. “She developed dactylitis, which causes swelling of the hands, and is very painful,” said Sophia. Arielle was treated at Children’s of Alabama, which would be the first of many hospital visits to come. “It has been difficult, but everyone at Children’s has always been so sweet to us through all of this,” said Sophia. “We have always had a very good relationship with everyone on the staff.”

Arielle’s condition continues to be high risk and complex, but she manages her disease well with medication and a monthly red blood cell exchange. As for Arielle’s care at Children’s, her mom said, “The support, the attention and information they have provided us has been invaluable. They are like family to us.” 

-Children’s of Alabama


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Healthy Living

The humidity of an Alabama summer can make it tough to keep your hair looking its best but the team at T. Fox SalonSpa has three great ideas on how to beat the heat!

  1. Treat your hair to an Express Keratin Smoothing Treatment 

T Fox Salonspa Keratin treatment before and after imageBenefits

  • Prevents Humidity 
  • Reduces Frizz  
  • Strengthens and Repairs  

 Only a 1-hour process time and the results last up to six weeks!


2. Add a Smooth Infusion Style Prep Smoother to your hair care regimen Stylist Holding Smooth Infusion bottle


  • Locks out humidity for 12 hours
  • Reduces frizz for a smoother style


3. Make the most of your natural curl, with Aveda Texture Tonic

  • Use on wet or dry hair to define natural curl 
  • Adds a flexible hold and shine

Stylist holding Texture Tonic BottleFor more ideas on how to best care for your hair visit the T. Fox Salon Facebook page where every Tuesday the team posts a Tuesday Hair Care Tip The team also invites you to stop by the SalonSpa on Valleydale Road in Hoover to learn more.

-Brought to you by T. Fox SALONSPA, Top 200 Salon in North America by Salon Today

2080 Valleydale Road, Hoover, AL 35244


T- Fox SalonSpa is offering a Readers’ Reward for the month of July! A $20 Gift for first time guests! Check it out here!


Healthy Living

COMPACT is a collaborative community initiative designed to address the full spectrum of substance misuse in Shelby County through prevention, intervention, and education.

Prevention.  The team is implementing strategies aimed at reducing substance misuse and promoting mental wellness by:

  • raising awareness & educating citizens on risk factors;
  • identifying at-risk youth and building mentor relationships with students;
  • promoting available resources;
  • implementing new prevention strategies; and
  • using community-based law enforcement approaches.

COMPACT’s volunteer led prevention teams educate, engage, and empower their local communities. The teams include representatives from different sectors of the community including youth, parents, schools, businesses, media, law enforcement, local government, faith-based organizations, healthcare, and civic organizations.

Intervention. COMPACT’s Intervention Team is comprised of law enforcement officers assigned to the unit from participating municipalities across Shelby County. COMPACT’s Intervention Team identifies juveniles who are exhibiting at-risk behaviors or who are already involved in substance use.

COMPACT utilizes valuable resources to proactively help parents who need an added layer of support for their child. Families can contact COMPACT to inquire about options and resources available or voluntarily schedule a family intervention meeting for the parent and child. An intervention meeting will provide your child the opportunity for a brief mental health and substance use assessment with a licensed counselor. Together we will discuss the issues your child faces along with the resources and other alternatives available.

Education. COMPACT’s educational outreach is designed to provide information and support to all citizens throughout Shelby County. Our goal is to raise awareness and create change to prevent youth substance use and promote mental wellness. Below is a list of some of our most requested presentations.

  • Current youth drug trends
  • Vaping
  • Digital Safety
  • Mental Health
  • The Teenage Brain

Presentations can be customized based on the audience and your specific needs. If you or a group is interested in having a COMPACT presentation, please contact us at (Parent Talk Line) 205-605-1827, (Teen Talk Line) 205-605-1830, Visit for weekly resource videos on topics like summer safety.

PIRC Childrens of Alabama Booth at Expo

Healthy Living

PIRC Childrens of Alabama Booth at Expo
Members of the PIRC Team were at the recent Celebrate the Family Expo! to share with families about mental health resources available in our community

Navigating the mental health care system is challenging for patients, families and providers. A new resource based at Children’s of Alabama helps to bridge this gap for parents. The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) is a collaboration between Children’s of Alabama and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation for Hope. PIRC Director Cindy Jones says, “PIRC provides resources to any adult caller and we have more than 1,300 resources in the state of Alabama.”

The PIRC is only one of three of its kind in the country. When a parent has concerns about their child, they are able to call PIRC confidentially. Licensed mental health clinicians trained to assess a child or teen’s emotional and behavioral needs answer the calls. “If someone calls the PIRC, we are able to briefly assess the situation and point them in the direction of resources in the community,” Jones says. PIRC does not provide over the phone diagnoses.

Jones says parents should watch for signs of mental distress:

  • Isolating themselves
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Weight changes
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Mood swings

Children and teens shouldn’t suffer alone. There are hundreds of resources available in the state of Alabama to help families navigate through difficult situations and offer them support. PIRC is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Any adult with a mental health question or concern regarding their child is encouraged to call 205-638-7472. In the event of a crisis situation, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. †

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