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A federal court ruling could bring more oversight to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health
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Federal civil rights attorneys leave the court house in Jackson following Wednesday's hearing.
AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

A federal court ruling will bring more oversight to mental health care in Mississippi. Experts say this could improve accountability to the state's mental health system and protect vulnerable residents.

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U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves has ruled on a remedial plan for the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health. The ruling requires an independent monitor oversee the state's mental health system, and ensure data is reported properly. Sitaniel Wimbley, Executive Director of NAMI Mississippi, says this additional oversight could protect vulnerable Mississippians.

Wimbley says “There are things like transportation, insurance coverage, quality of care, all of those have to be looked at. And I think that over the past 11 years, these are things that have been addressed in the court case.”

The case was filed 11 years ago by the U.S. Department of Justice, and experts say they are glad to finally see a ruling. But the state can file an appeal requesting the court to overturn the ruling. Joy Hogge is Executive Director of Families as Allies Mississippi.

“I’m concerned that they’ll appeal and further delay all this,” says Hogge. “I’m also a little bit concerned that after the monitor is appointed that Jugde Reeves will no longer be actively involved in the case unless it goes back to court. And I’m a little concerned about if the state will actually follow through.”

In a statement, the Department of Mental Health says it has expanded services and supports since the case was originally filed, and aims to support and care for the state's mental health patients.