CL – Miss. would save $9M by downsizing Oakley and housing fewer youth offenders

Mississippi could save about $9 million by downsizing Oakley Training School and reducing by about half the number of youth offenders at the state-run juvenile detention center, the state Department of Human Services said Wednesday.

In his budget proposal, Gov. Haley Barbour suggested closing Oakley in addition to six mental health crisis centers, and four mental health facilities to patch together a fiscal 2011 budget on declining revenues.

Key lawmakers immediately rebuked the proposal to close the mental health crisis centers and facilities. But House Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Steve Holland said he expects a thorough debate on the governor’s plan to close Oakley.

“I think probably the proposition to close Oakley falls in the vein of moving more of the institutional programs to home- and community-based programs,” said Holland, D-Plantersville. “I think we will give the proposition more than a cursory review.”

The facility has a $17.2 million operating budget and employs more than 300. DHS Executive Director Don Thompson discussed the alternative downsizing plan with Senate lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing.

Clarion-Ledger
1/14/10