Options explored to keep mental health centers open

Leaders in Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties are scrambling to keep mental health centers operating.

Options explored to keep mental health centers open

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A continuing budget crisis is threatening to disrupt services for what is considered a critical need. The doors are open and services supporting mental health are being provided at Gulf Coast Mental Health Center (GCMHC) and other facilities, but just barely.

“We’ve already reached a tipping point with the county, providing additional funds to keep Region 13 going. We’re hoping by the end of this year, by December, that something will change. We’re concerned about it,” said Harrison County Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

A funding issue dating back to July 2019 was discussed at a workshop organized by officials from the region.

Historically Region 13 has included Harrison, Hancock, Stone and Pearl River Counties (PRC). PRC has decided to leave and is now part of Pine Belt Mental Health headquartered in the Hattiesburg area.

Expanding Pine Belt’s involvement has been talked about as a solution after question surfaced regarding how GCMHC was being managed.

Changes have been made and the group has committed to reorganizing. In light of that, reaching out to the state could be a viable alternative.

“If we can go to the legislature and say we need a bailout, we realize it was messed up and we’re watching it now to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Hancock County Administrator Eddie Farve.

Emergency funding from the three counties and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health has provided just enough money to keep centers open on a month to month basis. A permanent solution is needed and everything is on the table.

“We have the option of privatizing, which we haven’t looked at that closely. That is an option to have private mental hospitals. We could go out on our own, the county itself,” said Ladner.

GCMHC runs outpatient clinics, residential homes and crisis units in the three counties.

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