Parent shares struggle of finding mental health services for child: Geoff Pender

Suzy has stayed three times in the Forrest County jail annex — stays of 19, 14 and nine days — while waiting for a state psychiatric hospital bed to become open.

“The court commitment process for mental health is: you go swear out an affidavit at chancery court, and they give you a document you take to a mental health facility,” Russum said. “They do an assessment and make a pickup order. When they pick them up, they are immediately transferred to the county jail. They’re supposed to do two assessments and have them back in court within 72 hours. But it never works that way. It’s a minimum of five days every time, at least that’s our experience. If you get a commitment order, then she goes back to the jail and waits for a bed to become available.”

The jail annex, Russum said, is supposed to be a “clinical facility” capable of handling adults and children with mental disorders, but it really isn’t.

During one stay at the jail, Suzy didn’t receive her medications for three days.

“When they don’t have a nurse on duty, they don’t give meds. She was vomiting, sweating and having convulsions and was incoherent for her last 14 hours there,” Russum said. “I called the sheriff at home, and he sent somebody over to check on her … She ended up going by ambulance to Forrest General. My child was literally dying, at stroke stage.”

Geoff Pender
Clarion Ledger