City attorney: Negotiations underway with crisis center

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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NATCHEZ — An inpatient treatment center for children and adolescents for mental and behavioral difficulties remains open at the former Natchez Children’s Home even after receiving a notice last month from the City of Natchez to “immediately cease operations,” Natchez City Attorney Bryan Callaway said.

Callaway said this is because negotiations are underway between the city and Bruce’s legal representatives that will hopefully come to a resolution soon that “will give everyone a fair chance and still look out for the best interest of the children” served by the facility.

In the meantime, the facility remains open, he said.

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Mayor Dan Gibson said in early January that the city attorney had been investigating potential licensing issues at the facility at 806. N. Union St.

It was discovered then that in July 2022, privilege license No. S01064 was issued to Bruce Professional Services for a “daycare service” at the 806 N. Union St. property, which is not the correct license type.

The facility is being operated by Dr. Tina Bruce as an extension of her business, Bruce Professional Counseling Services. Bruce said the 28-bed center provides inpatient treatment for children and adolescents from ages 6 to 18 who are in the custody of Child Protective Services.

However, Gibson said the building was not properly zoned for the service in compliance with the city zoning ordinance. A rezoning request would have required Bruce to fill out a separate application that would have involved public hearings and special approval from the Board of Aldermen for the business to open.

“The city was not aware that an inpatient facility for children and adolescents was in operation until we received complaints from citizens in that area and read about it the local paper,” he said. “The property where this facility is located is zoned R-3 (Mixed Density Residential) and this type of facility is unfortunately not permitted in this historic residential zone.”

According to Gibson, a letter was sent on Jan. 19 to Bruce requesting that the crisis center close.

Bruce Counseling Service did receive initial certification from the Department of Mental Health to provide “Crisis Residential Services” for children and youth in Natchez last June, according to Adam Moore, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health director of planning and communications.

“Their policies and procedures have been reviewed and met all DMH health and safety requirements,” he said. “They will be fully certified following a DMH review of documentation related to personnel and client records and, if needed, any Plan of Compliance is accepted by DMH.”

Moore said once the center has been operating for a period of time, if the facility is still operational, DMH would do a follow-up and Bruce would need to provide the requested documentation in order to become fully licensed.