Initial funding approved for state mental health monitor

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A federal judge has approved funding for an independent monitor to collect and analyze data on how the Mississippi mental health system is working to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves on December 3 ordered the state to make an initial payment of $25,000 to Michael Hogan, a mental health care veteran with 40 years of experience. He previously served as a private master amid ongoing litigation between the Mississippi Department of Health and the federal government.

The order comes as the state is appealing a ruling in September by Reeves that requires it to design a plan for the future of the state’s mental health care system.

Hogan submitted a proposed budget on October 18 totaling $317,330 in estimated costs for the year to undertake his role as observer. This includes fees for Hogan’s duties and for experts who may need help analyzing and validating the data.

Under Reeves’ order, the state is responsible for tracking a wide range of data, including admissions to state hospitals and the number of patients who have stayed in state hospitals for more than 180 days; Calls to mobile crisis teams, number of people incarcerated while waiting for a government hospital bed.

While serving as an observer, Hogan will be required to submit reports every six months on state compliance with Reeves’ order. Reeves will hold a lay conference with the state and federal government and Hogan after each report is submitted. Hogan will be appointed to a three-year term and can be reappointed.

Reeves also ruled in September that the state should begin a clinical review process. The state must sample 100 to 200 patients annually “to ensure that services are operating as intended to meet the needs of people with serious mental illness.”

However, the state has requested that the implementation of the review process be delayed while it is appealing.

The requirements are the result of a years-long legal battle over how the state of Mississippi cares for people with mental illness.

The federal government issued a letter in 2011 saying that the state had done little to provide mental health services outside mental hospitals. The Department of Justice sued the state of Mississippi in 2016, and Reeves ruled that the state was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

State attorneys maintain that Mississippi has enacted programs that enable people to get treatment in their communities and avoid hospitalization, such as mobile crisis teams, supportive housing and peer support services. Justice Department lawyers said during a hearing last summer that these services need to be expanded and that metrics are needed to make sure they work.

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