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Dept. Mental Health Cuts Jobs, Consolidates Services
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Mississippi State Hospital, Rankin County

Cutting jobs and consolidating services are some of the steps a state agency is taking in the face of a declining budget.

Mississippi's Board of Mental Health is reducing the department's workforce by up to 650 jobs by June 2018.  The cuts include retirements, leaving vacancies unfilled and layoffs. In a statement, the board said it's general fund budget is nearly $20 million less than last year. Joy Hogge with Families as Allies says the loss of jobs and the impact on services is devastating.

"Because our state at the same time is under scrutiny and has been for almost 20 years for over-relying on providing care in institutions as opposed to providing more care in the community," said Hogge. 

The department of mental health is facing several lawsuits for not providing more community-based services. To cut costs, the department is shifting some programs to Community Mental Health Centers and other providers. They're consolidating adolescent services at East Mississippi State Hospital in Meridian, with one in Rankin County. They've also stopped admissions at five regional facilities for the developmentally disabled. House Democrat Kathy Sykes of Hinds County, wants the department added to the special session in June.

"Unless we put our people first and add to the special session agenda, funding, more funding for mental health services then we may find ourselves paying out a whole lot of money in lawsuits because we're failing to meet the need of our citizens," said Sykes.

A spokesperson for Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement, the governor will make a decision about any agency budgets closer to the date of the special session, which is June 5.