U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves issued an order on December 3 that overruled the state’s objection to the court-appointed monitor’s budget, which is paid by state funds.
The monitor’s budget for his initial year of work is $317,330. The state said in its filing from November 22 that some of those funds would be used for an clinical review process, which was one of the parts of the remedial plan that was stayed earlier this year. This process was designed to review the records of 100 to 150 patients annually.
Reeves said in his order that the state’s objection was one to regular monitoring activity and therefore he overruled it. He also said in his discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice and the independent monitor, Dr. Michael Hogan, that there will be no clinical review process if the stay is in effect.
He said the disputed part of the monitor’s budget was an informal contact tracing designed to identify a discharged patient and ask them if they were readmitted to a psychiatric hospital. Reeves also ordered the state to pay Hogan $25,000 initially so he can set up a cash reserve to pay staffers and other costs as needed.
Hogan’s budget has $125,000 for the monitor himself, $124,800 for two staffers located in Mississippi, $44,000 for experts to design a clinical review process if it’s deemed necessary by the monitor along with data analysis consultation and $20,530 for travel and lodging for Hogan and his staff.
The partial stay was issued as the state appeals Reeves' September 7 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
The partial stay covers several components of Reeves’ ruling, including:
- Delaying implementation of the requirement for Peer Support Services at county mental health centers statewide in fiscal 2022 (which began on July 1). Funding for this change wasn't approved by the Legislature, according to the brief filed by the state in support of a stay.
- The mandate that the state fund 250 CHOICE housing vouchers for fiscal 2022 and 250 more in fiscal 2023 and sustain funding for those services. Those services would've cost $2 million each fiscal year until after 2023, when the requirement for additional vouchers will double.
- The clinical review process of 100 to 150 patients annually is another mandate that will be paused by the stay. The state says it would have to restructure its system by designing a clinical review process that doesn't exist and will cost additional tax dollars.
- The action plan that the state must propose to the court within 120 days.
The federal government has successfully argued that the state's mental health system violates the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court says individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community under the Americans with Disabilities Act rather than be institutionalized in one of the state’s psychiatric hospitals.
The Department of Justice commenced an investigation in 2011 and sent a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ attempted to negotiate a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won on September 3, 2019 in a bench trial conducted by Reeves. Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master, Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.