Court weighs U.S. Department of Justice’s claims that Mississippi has failed to provide adequate services for adults with mental illness.

In Jackson on Monday, attorneys representing the U.S. Department of Justice met with those of the state of Mississippi at the federal courthouse to discuss the plan that the court should order to ensure improvements.

Monday’s hearing dealt with updates on the status of the lawsuit over mental health services in the state.

Federal attorneys have said Mississippi relies too heavily on state-run hospitals instead of improving mental health treatment in communities.

“At the Mississippi State Hospital continuing care unit, for example, the average length of stay was around 4.5 years,” the Justice Department plan reads. “Approximately 1,200 people who were admitted to the State Hospitals between 2015 and 2017 stayed longer than two months. During the same period, over 700 adults with serious mental illness experienced two or more State Hospital admissions.”

The proposed remedial plan is intended to provide that people with mental illnesses will be able to live and work in the community with proper help.

Services and supports have been expanded over the past several years, and new services and supports have been implemented. These include Mobile Crisis Response Teams, Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs), peer support, Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT), Intensive Community Outreach and Recovery Teams (ICORT), Intensive Community Support Services (ICSS), supported employment, supported housing, Mental Health First Aid trainings for the public, court liaisons, and Crisis Intervention Teams.

You can find more information about these services on the Department of Mental Health web site at http://www.dmh.ms.gov/olmstead/.

“In the prior years, the Legislature has devoted additional millions of dollars for improving mental health resources to our citizens,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told Y’all Politics. “This was not motivated by litigation, but by the State’s commitment to its citizens. I was pleased at hearing the Special Master acknowledge our positive steps forward.”

This lawsuit originally began in 2016 when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi under the notion that the state had not provided adequate support for those living in their community with mental illnesses.

Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Mississippi negotiated throughout the span of 2012 to 2015. After these negotiations failed, the U.S. DOJ then sued Mississippi in 2016. The State lost this lawsuit in September 2019 after a month-long trial in June 2019 in the court of Judge Carlton Reeves.

The state was forced to enter into a remedial process after Judge Reeves ruled in September 2019 that Mississippi was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Judge Reeves has now ordered that an independent monitor be put into place to oversee Mississippi‘s embattled mental health care system.

The monitor will be tasked with duties such as verifying data submitted by the state and analyzing the success of its mental health services. A major component of this role will be examining whether the state is preventing unnecessary hospitalizations by allowing people to be treated in their own communities.

Judge Reeves ruled on the remedial plan for the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health late Wednesday.

This ruling 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.