County discusses mental patients

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Uncontrollable mentally ill people are winding up where they do not belong &8212; in jail.

Citizens, county supervisors and sheriff&8217;s representatives met Wednesday to find a solution to the problem.

Often no room is available in state mental hospitals, so the mentally ill who need to be secured wind up in jail, said Steve Ellis, executive director of Southwest Mississippi Mental Health.

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Adams County Sheriff Ronny Brown said his staff did not have the proper training to cope with such inmates.

&8220;These are sick people,&8221; Brown said. &8220;They shouldn&8217;t be in jail.&8221;

Ellis said an outpatient crisis center where patients could get early treatment was proposed outside Natchez years ago. City and county governments supported it, he said, but local residents did not want the center in their neighborhood.

&8220;A lot of it has to do with common ignorance and fear,&8221; Ellis said.

A state hospital in Brookhaven will probably serve Adams County when built, but it is in the early stages of construction, Ellis said at Wednesday&8217;s meeting.

After open discussion, supervisors and hospital leaders held a private meeting to find a possible solution.

After the meeting, Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said Jeff Wesselman, CEO of Natchez Regional Medical Center, would meet with his medical staff to find a place to house a few short-term mental patients. Eventually, Wesselman said, the hospital plans to open a full psychiatric ward.

The hospital will then tell supervisors if they will need to provide money for an off-duty sheriff&8217;s deputy for security, Grennell said.

&8220;We&8217;re also going to touch base with the state mental health program to see if they can provide reimbursement funds.&8221;