A recent report from the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration has issued the first report from an independent watchdog that will reform the state's mental health department.
The goal is to reform the current mental health delivery system so that services are readily accessible and delivered preferably in the communities where patients live.
The report was the first delivered by the DFA's Office of the Coordinator of Mental Health Accessibility and reports will be issued every quarter.
Senate Bill 2160 was passed in the 2020 session and became law that year on July 1. It created the position of the coordinator and allowed them to hire a staff and begin to investigate the state's mental health system to ensure availability, accessibility of services along with their quality and adequacy.
Bill Rosamond was appointed as the state's first coordinator of accessibility and according to the report, he's assisted with the state's defense in the recent federal lawsuit.
The efforts of lawmakers are in parallel with those of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against the state in 2016 over its excessive institutionalization of the mentally ill, in violation of the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. that said the Americans with Disabilities Act gave the mentally ill the ability to live in the community rather than be forcibly institutionalized.
The review that is being conducted by the coordinator's office of the state's mental health services will rely on a Canadian model specially adapted to mental health. The methodology used will grade the state Department of Mental Health in these areas:
The adequacy of outpatient psychiatric care in parallel with the efforts to deinstitutionalize patients from the state's four regional hospitals.
The accessibility of individualized care to patients.
The level of satisfaction from patients from the services received.
Analyzing the training of staff in regards to assessment, diagnosis and intervention.
The rate of therapeutic continuity following discharge from institutions.
The effectiveness of the current mental health workforce and its financial viability.
The amount of threats to the safety of both staff and patients.
According to the report, there have been some changes to the state's community mental health centers, which are the primary providers of mental health care for the mentally ill, substance abuse and intellectual or developmental disabilities. These centers operate under the supervision of regional commissions appointed by the county boards of supervisors. They operate independently of the DMH, but are subject to its regulations. They're also funded by three methods: Medicaid, state and federal grants and county funding.
In 2013, one regional center in Greenville was absorbed by one in Greenwood due to financial challenges.
This year, the CMHC in Gulfport merged with the one in Hattiesburg, again due to financial issues with the Gulfport facility. According to the report, these locations served 110,000 Mississippians in 2018.
The report also says the state is one of only two states nationally where behavioral health services are administered by a state agency overseen by a board.
The report also detailed the workings of the the state's six regional centers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities run by the DMH, crisis stabilization units that offer time-limited residential treatment to those with severe mental health episodes, mobile crisis teams to deploy to the location of a person in crisis, PACT teams and ICORT teams.
The report also says the coordinator's office will focus on data gathering for its next report.