Mental facilities in jeopardy of closing - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mental facilities in jeopardy of closing

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Al Showers – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's Budget woes could mean some mental health facilities in the state may have to close their doors.

Earlier this year, lawmakers fought a proposal by Governor Haley Barbour to close four state mental health hospitals and six crisis centers as a cost saving measure. Now the nonprofit-run centers are being asked to pay medicaid match money or risk losing their state approved provider status.

"Over the last five years, our in-take for mental commitments in Hancock County have increased almost 200 percent," Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar said.

Kellar is responsible for getting help for some mentally ill patients. He said before Katrina the county averaged about 40 commitments a year. Now, it's 100 per year.

Kellar said, "I can assure you they're has never been a need in this state for mental health than there is right now."

That's why he said the state can't afford to loose any of its mental health facilities.

"What he's doing on this is challenging these state run facilities to go and try to find other ways of funding, such as medicaid, medicare," said Kellar.

In Hancock County, there are only counseling centers, as well as a couple of group homes to rehabilitate patients.

"There was once a time when some of the worst mental commitment patients were held in the county jail. As you well know, we don't have a county jail any more," Kellar said. "So I don't know where we would go if we wouldn't have the State run mental health facilities."

Kellar knows money is extremely tight for the State but said the Legislature must find the funds needed to keep the mental health facilities open.

"The criteria for mental commitments: homicidal, suicidal, a threat to society, so if we've got people who meet any of those criteria that's still out there on the streets, I think the general population, general public is certainly in danger."

The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in Gulfport is one of 15 community mental health centers that could have been affected.

However CSU leaders say the facility has not exceeded its medicaid match allegations from the state in more than six years.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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