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New Program Helps Healthcare Providers Treat Patients With Developmental Disabilities
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Healthcare providers around the state will now have a resource where they can learn how to give personalized care to those Mississippians with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program will also allow for more individuals with disabilities to live outside state run institutions.

Gerry Gray-Lewis of Jackson is the mother of 21-year-old Mora. She says it's important that healthcare providers know how to treat people with developmental handicaps.

"It's essential that the doctors and dentists, nurses and all of the folks that care for our children feel comfortable and capable of serving them, and if that dentist is comfortable, Momma's comfortable," says Gray-Lewis. "Mora's comfortable, Momma's comfortable."

In an effort to grow the number of healthcare providers with experience treating the developmentally disabled, a new program has begun operating in the state. Doctor Craig Escude is the director a mental health advocacy program called DETECT. He says the aim of the group will be to educate physicians and others on how to address the special needs of those patients with disabilities.

"There currently really is no intellectual and developmental disability physician group or healthcare provider group that you can refer to," Escude says. "DETECT's purpose is to grow the healthcare community's capacity to deliver appropriate healthcare for people with disabilities."

The facility will also help developmentally disabled individuals transition from state run institutions to smaller community based settings. Mike Harris runs the Hudspeth Regional Center -- one of the state's five residential mental health institutions. He says moving some disabled patients into the community frees up more resources to provide care for other individuals who might need more attention.

"We're seeing a lot more crisis, where individuals may have lived at home and their elderly parents passed away; they have nowhere to go," Harris says. "We try, if we can, to keep them there in the community, but in some cases they can come here. But they can come here and some of these beds will open up."

There are currently more than 1,400 Mississippians living in the state's five residential mental health institutions.