OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The president of Psycamore Psychiatric Services says he might consider opening a clinic in Ocean Springs someday, but he wants the dust to settle first.
His company recently won a discrimination lawsuit and a nearly $500,000 settlement against the City of Ocean Springs after the board of aldermen sided with neighborhood opposition and prevented the opening of a mental health clinic on Iberville Drive.
Psycamore opened an outpatient clinic in Biloxi after it was denied an operating permit to open at a site on Iberville Drive.
Dr. Sudhakar Madakasira held a news conference at his lawyer's office in downtown Ocean Springs Thursday morning. He says he wasn't looking for a legal battle, only an opportunity to provide mental health services.
"When it became apparent that the neighborhood of Iberville Drive and the aldermen were bias against us because ours is a psychiatric program, I wanted to fight. It's about the principle of fairness," said Madakasira.
He says the Ocean Springs site was perfect for the type of outpatient treatment the clinic provides. Its serene location and wrap around porch were what attracted him to the Iberville location.
What he wasn't counting on was neighborhood opponents.
"They were wrong. They were absolutely wrong. Our patients are not dangerous," Madakasira said.
His attorney says it was clearly a case of discrimination by the city in denying the clinic opening.
"As we do with everything, we take our early facts. We looked at the law closely. It was very clear. Shame on me if we'd lost it," said the attorney.
Madakasira says he will take $75,000 of the settlement money to create a statewide foundation to help erase the stigma around the mentally ill and the treatment of mental illness.
"Fighting discrimination has always been my cause, and the unjust denial of our facility by the Ocean Springs Aldermen provided fuel to this fire," Madakasira said.
Despite all that's happened, would he consider returning to Ocean Springs?
"My answer is maybe. If the same Iberville Drive property becomes available and is still zoned commercial, possibly yes. But not for another year, as I would like to see the dust settle," Madakasira explained.
The City of Ocean Springs has already made the first payment in the discrimination settlement.
Along with the financial settlement of $437,500, the city was also ordered to have special training for its employees about the Americans with Disabilities Act.