County could get mental health center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2000

In 1997, an Adams County resident shot his grandfather and grandmother, killing the grandfather, while awaiting transfer to the state hospital at Whitfield. In September 1998, Roy Dunigan hanged himself on the very day he was to have been transferred to the state hospital at Whitfield. But now Adams County may be one step closer to a mental health crisis intervention center that could prevent such tragedies, say local officials.

In the 1999 session, the state Legislature approved $17.5 million in a bonding bill to construct seven mental health crisis centers in Mississippi, to be operated by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, said Dr. Randy Hendrix, executive director of the Department of Mental Health.

Now the Department of Mental Health has developed a list of nine additional counties to be targeted as sites for mental health crisis centers, Hendrix said in memo dated Jan. 7.

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Adams joins Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, Lowndes, Pearl River, DeSoto, Warren and Attala counties as sites for the next round of centers.

The original seven mental health crisis centers have been planned for Corinth, Newton, Grenada, Laurel, Cleveland, Brookhaven and Batesville.

&uot;The centers will be 17-bed facilities, providing short-term acute psychiatric treatment for persons in crisis who have been committed to the state hospitals and for whom a bed is not readily available,&uot; Hendrix said.

These centers will also house persons living in the community who voluntarily seek emergency mental health care and are likely to be referred for the commitment process.

The first centers are expected to be completed in the next fiscal year, said Hendrix.

It may take two to three years before the additional nine centers are completed, said Ray Wallace, director of the Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex in McComb.

&uot;The Legislature has to pass the money,&uot; Wallace said. &uot;They realize there’s a need.&uot;

&uot;Any efforts the state makes to assist us locally in the lack of space for proper treatment of people with mental problems is needed immediately,&uot; said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff.

&uot;We’ll continue to work with the Department of Health and the Southwest Mental Health Complex to address these problems,&uot; Huff said.

Each of the centers will be staffed with two psychology staff members, two social workers, one certified mental health recreational therapist, one nurse practitioner, 11 registered nurses and 13 active treatment therapists, Hendrix said.

Physician services for the centers will be provided through the Department of Mental Health’s main psychiatric facilities like the state hospital at Whitfield, East Mississippi State Hospital in Meridian, North Mississippi State Hospital at Tupelo, and South Mississippi State Hospital which is under construction at Purvis.

Other hospital support services like laundry, dietary, laboratory and pharmacy will be contracted locally.

Funding for operation of these centers have not been allocated by the state Legislature.