/‘Jail has been the go-to spot for all the mentally ill’

‘Jail has been the go-to spot for all the mentally ill’

Patten stated, “When a loved one calls me, they are overwhelmed by the situation and have no other option but to call me.” Patten is just one of many law enforcement officers across the country who are on the frontlines for psychiatric treatment. They have limited resources due to insufficient mental health care and support for those with severe mental illness. According to data from Mississippi’s Department of Mental Health, nearly 91,000 Mississippians suffered from a severe mental illness in 2017. A large number of them are locked in a dysfunctional system of mental health care that denies them civil rights, and moves them from jails to psychiatric hospital to homeless shelters, or even leaves them on the streets. The U.S. Department of Justice has won a lawsuit against Mississippi over its treatment of mental illness. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves declared a defeat to the state in a 2016 lawsuit. Reeves stated that the failure of the state to provide adequate community-based service has led to the unneeded commitment of thousands to psychiatric hospitals for people who could have been treated outpatiently. Patten stated that the jail was the main place for mental ill people. When you approach local officials and ask them for help, they’ll tell you that the state has the responsibility of providing mental health services. The state will then say that they don’t have the funding. The problem is that the mental health consumers aren’t getting the care they need. This is happening because all 82 county sheriffs are responsible. Officials from Mississippi’s Department of Mental Health claim that a Mobile Crisis Response Team has been established in each of the 82 Mississippi counties. However, Patten testified during trial that the Adams County Sheriff’s Department dispatches to respond to calls to the mobile crisis number. This is due in large part to the fact that the mobile crisis team is located in McComb, which is over an hour away. Mental Illness, a neurobiological condition, can lead to death if left untreated, according Julie Teater, a Gulf Coast clinical psychologist. She said that it is crucial to intervene quickly. “You can stop someone from harming themselves or others by getting them treatment early.” “The vast majority of people with mental illnesses have jobs and live fulfilling lives. They are not different from people with high blood pressure or diabetes. Teater stated that they have an illness to manage. Micah Dutro is the legal director at Disability Rights Mississippi. He said that Mississippi is 25 years behind the national trend to shift people with serious mental illnesses from psychiatric hospitals into outpatient, community-based treatment. Dutro stated that while the state is trying to catch up, many people don’t get the care they need. This could be because services aren’t available in their area, or because they aren’t insured or lack transportation to access them. In its 2019 annual report, Mental Health America ranked Mississippi as the least accessible state for mental health care services. “Quality and care shouldn’t depend on where we live” State officials, mental health advocates, and providers agree that Mississippi’s mental health crisis is exacerbated by a shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses practitioners, and large numbers of uninsured people with serious mental illnesses and limited funding. Dutro and others argue that the main obstacle to adequate mental health services is the state’s fragmented infrastructure. This has resulted in inconsistencies in care, particularly in rural areas with high levels of poverty and uninsured. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Mississippi has the highest percentage of families in poverty. Mississippi’s Department of Mental Health has 12 inpatient psychiatric units, but relies on 14 independent Community Mental Health Centers to provide mental health services. These centers are divided into different regions. Services vary from one region to the next. People who live in areas that are more populated and more prosperous have more access to services because they receive more money from their local counties. The quality of the care you receive shouldn’t be dependent on where you live. You shouldn’t care if your home is in the Delta, Jackson, Tupelo, or the Gulf Coast. The same mental health services should be available everywhere. Dutro stated that the state has not set it up. “The people who go to community mental health centers are usually people living in poverty, or near it,” Dutro stated. Therefore, if they don’t have the services in their area, Dutro warned that the Department of Mental Health must step up efforts to expand community-based services. According to agency officials, $13.3 million was taken from its institutional budget in fiscal 2019, which was used to expand the community. From two programs in fiscal year 2014, PACT had eight million. This money was used to increase crisis services and Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) from two to 10. People with persistent and severe mental illness who are not eligible for traditional outpatient care can receive consistent PACT team services. Reeves stated that PACT teams go directly to people, regardless of whether they live at home or under a Bridge. However, most counties don’t have them. The state also increased the number of Crisis Stabilization Units, which went from eight 16-bed CSU units to thirteen units with varying numbers of beds. A $900,000 portion of $13.3 million was also spent to expand Community Transition Homes, which allow people receiving ongoing treatment at Mississippi State Hospital to live in their community. $400,000 was used to expand a jail-based pilot program that was established in Hinds, Madison, and other counties in 2017. Adam Moore, DMH director of communications, stated that the program is designed to reduce the time people with mental illnesses charged with a crime have to wait to receive court-ordered treatment at Mississippi State Hospital to bring them back to competency for trial. Patten stated that he hasn’t seen any improvements in rural Adams County with a population of approximately 32,000. He said that the county doesn’t have a Crisis Stabilization Unit to provide inpatient, short-term treatment. These units are vital because some people might not need to be admitted to a (psychiatric hospital). They may just have a lapsed in their medication and need to restart treatment. The jail is next to the Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex. This is the county’s designated community-mental health center. Patten stated that he must jail anyone with a mental illness, which could make them dangerous to themselves or others, until a court order is issued to transport them to a suitable facility. The center doesn’t have a house. People with mental illnesses must be closely monitored as there are only two holding cells in the jail. Patten stated that the county only has one private hospital and it accepts only elderly mentally ill people. They are also not expected to be disruptive and have not been convicted of a crime. The nearest Crisis Stabilization Unit to Adams County can be found in Pike County, 50 miles away. Whitfield is about 140 miles from Whitfield. Whitfield is the closest psychiatric facility. Patten stated that people with no mental illness can hear their cell doors locking, which is a sign of something happening to their psyche. It’s terrifying for someone suffering from a severe mental illness, such as paranoia or hallucinations. Patten said that a person with a mental illness chewed the drain’s padding in his cell. Patten stated that it is a horrible situation for mental health consumers. Many of them have to wait for months in jail while they await a mental competency evaluation and a bed at an psychiatric facility. Patten stated that the main problem with incarceration is that all of their Medicare and Medicaid benefits are cut and that means that the county has to pay for the treatment. We can’t afford that. He stated that he was working with the University of Southern Mississippi on a pilot program for telemental. This would allow people to access psychological counseling online. “Mississippi should have a mixture of treatment options” In some cases, people suffering from mental illness who were not convicted of a crime languish behind bars for years. Lawrence Blackmon recounts the story of Antonio Brown, a client of his, in Canton. “A lot are indigent and cannot afford a proper defence so they get locked up and get lost in [the system],” said Blackmon. Brown, 35 years old, was arrested on a charge of voyeurism in January 2014. Blackmon stated that Brown was found incompetent and non-restorable following a mental competency assessment. His IQ indicated that he was technically mentally retarded. However, he was never sent to any state mental health facility. He was instead held at the Madison County Detention Center for just over five years. He was not tried and convicted. Blackmon secured Brown’s release in March, and the charges against him were dropped. Brown was arrested again in June for another charge of voyeurism. Blackmon stated that Brown, who is no longer his client has a history of mental illness, and speech impairment. Brown received outpatient treatment but “he wasn’t receiving adequate care in terms supervision and medication.” Blackmon, who was raised with Brown, said that Brown is still struggling to adjust to life outside. Brown’s inability to adjust to the outside world and the lack of adequate community mental health services makes it almost certain that he will re-offend. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center (a Virginia-based non-profit that works to remove barriers to treatment for those with severe mental illnesses, Mississippi, like every other state, imprisons more people with severe mental illnesses than it hospitalizes.” The center estimates that Mississippi had 5,159 people with serious mental illnesses in 2016, as of 2016. The nationwide trend toward deinstitutionalization began in the 1950s and 1960s to reduce the warehousing of people for years under undesirable conditions, but officials at the Treatment Advocacy Center say the drastic reduction of psychiatric beds has adversely affected people with severe mental illness who need intensive, inpatient treatment. According to them, the lack of beds and insufficient community services have led to increased suicides and homelessness among people with severe mental illnesses. Research shows that in 1955 there were 558922 inpatient mental health beds in state hospitals. The center reported that the number of inpatient psychiatric beds had dropped to 37,679 by the end of the first half 2016. John Snook, executive director of the center, stated that Mississippi must have a mix of inpatient and community treatment options. “Unfortunately, it is too often ignored by the Department of Justice in favor of their misguided personal beliefs.” The center’s executive director John Snook stated that Mississippi should “stop eliminating public mental health beds” because there is not enough to treat the need. The DOJ argued that the state would need fewer psychiatric beds if it focused more resources on community services. Scott Crawford, a Jackson disability advocate and retired clinical neuropsychologist said that psychiatric hospitals were necessary because people with severe mental illnesses cannot live independently and require long-term treatment. Others may be at risk of violent behavior. He said that “We have not fully funded home- and community-based services for individuals with disabilities, especially those with mental health issues.” I don’t think we can say that there aren’t enough inpatient beds until we do.