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Judge: Monitor to oversee Mississippi mental health system

MGN Online

A federal judge has ordered that an independent monitor be put into place to oversee Mississippi’s embattled mental health care system.

Posted: Jul 15, 2021 9:15 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered that an independent monitor be put into place to oversee Mississippi's embattled mental health care system.

The monitor will be tasked with verifying data submitted by the state analyzing the success of its mental health services. A key measure will be whether the state is preventing unnecessary hospitalizations by allowing people to be treated in their communities.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled on a remedial plan for the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health late Wednesday.

The order comes 10 years after the federal government issued a letter in 2011 saying Mississippi had done too little to provide mental health services outside mental hospitals. The Justice Department sued the state in 2016, and Reeves ruled Mississippi was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Federal attorneys said during a 2019 trial that mentally ill people were being held in jails because crisis teams did not respond. They said people had been forced to live far from their families because mental health services were not available in their hometowns. They also said people made repeat trips to Mississippi mental hospitals because there was no effective planning for them to make a transition to community services, and the most intensive kinds of services were not being made available.

During a court hearing Monday, federal attorneys said they believe Mississippi is still in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, while a state attorney said Mississippi has made consistent progress in the years since the lawsuit. Some of those changes include enacting a mobile crisis team, services to help patients transition between levels of care or to avoid the need for hospitalization, supportive housing and peer support services.

In early 2020, Reeves appointed a man with more than 40 years of experience working in mental health care as special master, tasked with helping the Justice Department and the state come up with a plan to chart the future of the mental health system.

Special Master Michael Hogan suggested a monitor be put in place to independently verify the state's data on the services it provides. He said the state did not appear to be collecting information to interpret the success of its services now. The state will be asked to come up with parameters on how this data will be collected, with input from the monitor.

In court Monday, Hogan had suggested having both sides come up with suggestions for who should fill the monitor role, which will ultimately be appointed by the court.

In addition to the monitor, a key piece of Hogan's plan is a clinical review process. The state will be required to sample 100 to 200 patients a year “to assure that services are working as intended to address the needs of people with serious mental illness.”

Hogan said the review process should provide a meaningful cross-check of the state's data, a suggestion Reeves said he was pleased to see included.

“The issues can become so abstract, so esoteric, that the lawyers, the monitors, and even the Court can forget that real families and real people are involved,” he wrote. “It takes effort to stop and remember that systems and institutions are made up of people whose lived experiences don’t fall neatly into categories or statistics.”

“If we fail to recognize that Mississippians with mental illness have lost their children because of their needless institutionalization, then we have done a disservice to those people and to the Americans with Disabilities Act we are supposed to enforce,” he continued.

Department of Justice attorneys have said they believe the monitor should be in place for at least three years, and then one year after that to ensure the programs the state has implemented are sustainable.

The state adamantly has opposed both a monitor and a clinical review process.

The Mississippi State Board of Mental Health was scheduled to meet Thursday morning. It's unclear whether they will discuss Reeves' ruling.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
Tuscaloosa35101612
Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
Calhoun22225488
Morgan20941378
Etowah19825500
Marshall18361304
Houston17384412
St. Clair16054339
Cullman15443293
Limestone15343199
Elmore15241286
Lauderdale14302295
Talladega13836283
DeKalb12649261
Walker11202370
Blount10192176
Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
Coffee9210191
Dale8897185
Colbert8860201
Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
Lowndes175164
Wilcox168839
Bullock151644
Perry138840
Sumter133038
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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