DOJ reviewing mental health care

Published 12:05 am Monday, September 5, 2011

JACKSON (AP) — A Mississippi mental health official says the Department of Justice Department is looking into whether the state is providing appropriate care to mentally ill.

“They don’t think our state has made a sufficient effort to move into community-based services,” Region 8 Executive Director Dave Van told The Clarion-Ledger. “They say we’re institutionally heavy.”

Justice Department officials have said Mississippi lacks long-term housing options, “and I can’t disagree,” Van said. “There is a lack of housing.”

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In February, federal officials concluded Virginia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by needlessly institutionalizing those with developmental disabilities. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed $30 million more in spending for community-based treatment.

In 2010, the Justice Department reached a settlement requiring the state of Georgia to come up with $77 million more for treatment for fiscal 2012 alone.

During two visits, Justice Department officials have toured Department of Mental Health programs, community mental health centers and a private provider.

“They have also expressed interest in our state’s Medicaid program and how community-based mental health services are reimbursed by Medicaid,” said Wendy Bailey, spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health.

“Many states have been investigated and while there are common findings, there are also differences,” she said. “Until we receive a findings letter (from the Justice Department), we will continue down Mississippi’s pathway toward expanding community service options.

“The Department of Mental Health will be asking for additional funds in the fiscal year 2013 budget request for specific strategic plan objectives, which will help expand community-based services in the public mental health system.”

Van said Justice Department officials are returning the second week in September to give recommendations.

Angela Ladner, executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, said it’s unfortunate Mississippi finds itself in this position with the Justice Department.

“You always want your future and your destiny to be in your hands when it comes to the care of your citizens,” she said. “Mental health is a huge problem in Mississippi, and there is enough to say grace over without having the Justice Department dictate to us how we operate.”