We mistakenly reported that Joy Hogge with Mississippi Families as Allies said the state was sued in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Justice. In March 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of several plaintiffs against the state of Mississippi for its failure to provide mental health services for children in the state. The U.S. Department of Justice joined that lawsuit and is participating in ongoing litigation. We regret the error.
Mental Health advocates in Mississippi are reacting to the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against the state department of health.
The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit says the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing coordinated community-based mental health services for adults. The lawsuit also claims the state institutionalizes adults unnecessarily. Joy Hogge with Mississippi Families as Allies says DOJ sued the state in 2010 over the same issues involving children. That case hasn't been settled.
"We've had really tragic situations. There was a young child as young as nine has ended up in an adult jail because the services and supports needed for them don't exist," said Hogge.
Hogge says Mississippians who have a mental health crisis often spend days in jail, or an emergency room before being sent to a psychiatric hospital. Angela Ladner with the Mississippi Psychiatric Association says patients in crisis should be treated by a doctor and go home. If additional care is needed she says they should be sent to a stabilization center in their community and institutionalization should be the last resort.
"So that any patient who has a brain disorder is never held in jail. That they have access to 24/7 crisis intervention services. That they can access medical needs and get treatment within 72 hours of the moment they go into crisis," said Ladner.
The department of mental health said in a statement it has nine stabilization centers for crisis care. Ladner says mental health services are not the same across the state and input from families and advocates isn't sought. Governor Phil Bryant has called the lawsuit another attempt by the federal government to dictate policy to states through the courts.