New center will offer mental health crisis care

Published 3:15 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

NATCHEZ — Southwest Mississippi Mental Health will open its new, eight-bed crisis stabilization facility in October in Natchez.

“If all of the stars align, we hope to open on Oct. 1,” said Sherlene Vince, executive director of Southwest Mississippi Mental Health.

The facility was originally proposed for the former Elks Lodge building on Lower Woodville Road, but because of outcry from residents who live in that area who did not want the facility located near them, the Natchez planning commission denied the rezoning request.

The 150 Jeff Davis Blvd. site is ideal for the facility, officials said, because it already zoned to allow for medical facilities. Merit Health donated the building to Southwest Mississippi Mental Health.

Vince said former Merit Health CEO Lance Boyd was instrumental in making this facility happen.

“We have been working on this project for the last several years and it is finally coming to fruition. The former CEO at Merit Health Natchez was instrumental in getting this done. After the rezoning meeting, he reached out to us and started a conversation with us,” Vince said. “In the end, he offered us a building as a donation and that was completed in May.”

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said the crisis stabilization unit is much needed here.

“Per capita, Adams County lingers around No. 1 or No. 2 in the numbers of committals per capita in the state, second to only Hinds County. Sometimes we are No. 1, sometimes they are No. 1,” Patten said. “What that means for the sheriff’s office is we are consistently running from here to Whitfield, here to Meridian, here to the coast. That’s a lot of driving and lots of wear and tear on vehicles. That’s a lot of manpower and personnel hours.

“It’s going to decrease our travel and we will be able to stabilize these individuals right here in their community. If they can’t get that done here, then they can send the individual to one of the longer term facilities,” Patten said.

“I want to thank Southwest Mississippi Mental Health, Brandy Lewis, Scott Slover and all who were a part of bringing this to Adams County. They have been fighting for this since 2016. I am a happy sheriff today.”

Southwest Mississippi Mental Health is part of Region 11 for the state’s community mental health system. The new facility in Natchez will house males and females, is for adults only and will be staffed 24 hours a day.

“We will be able to take voluntary hospitalizations and involuntary commitments through the Chancery Court,” Vince said. “This facility is not for long-term hospitalizations. Its purpose is to stabilize that individual and get them back into the community as quickly as possible. We will be a diversion from the Mississippi State hospital system.”

The staff at the unit will range between 15 and 20 workers, depending on the need for registered nurses and other direct care personnel, Vince said.

“There is a screening process to be admitted voluntarily,” said Tracy Alexander-Boyd, who is director of behavioral health. “You will not be able to bring your loved one who you think has mental health issues and leave them. We have a screening process to make certain individuals need that level of care.”

In addition, the unit is not for those suffering substance abuse disorders only, Vince said.

Eventually, other programs for the community will also be housed in the Jeff Davis facility, she said.