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Will a Court Force Mississippi to Change on Mental Health?

From Jackson Free Press:

That Cochran United States Courthouse

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Throughout June, Jackson-based U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves heard arguments in United States v. Mississippi, in which the U.S. government is suing the state for failing to ensure the state’s mental-health system upholds the civil rights of those with mental illnesses. It cites not only the long jail stays, but the over-hospitalization of people who could receive effective treatment in their own communities.

In closing arguments on July 1, 
attorney Jim Shelson denied the charges on behalf of the State of Mississippi.

“There was no evidence that anyone was unnecessarily institutionalized,” Shelson said.

The federal government, though, disagreed, noting that just 20% of those at the hospital in Whitfield received a visit from a community health-care worker before returning home in 2016 and 2017. That, DOJ attorneys contend, leads to poor outcomes, with no one giving people who 
suffer mental illness the tools they need to perform day-to-day functions, like going to school or working a job….

Peer-support specialists use their own experiences to help people who are dealing with similar struggles get better, by sharing the skills and tools they have learned in their own lives. Many parts of the state have little or no access to the specialists, though, [Melody Worsham] testified on June 5.

Without access to community-based services like the ones she provides on the Gulf Coast, Worsham said, people will continue to undergo unnecessary hospitalizations.

“Not everything needs hospitalization. Not everything is an emergency. When I go to a hospital, I’m losing all power over myself,” the told the court, as the Meridian Star reported. “And that itself is traumatizing.”

The federal government’s case rests on the idea that Mississippi’s mental-health system is so inadequate that the state is in violation of a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Olmstead v. L.C.

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