News Article Details

EDITORIAL: Mental health task force valuable initiative

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - 10/6/2017

Oct. 06--By coming together at the table and seeking to find efficiency opportunities within different institutional systems, state leaders from various areas have already taken a significant step forward in working to generate new, unique approaches to how mental health is handled in Mississippi.

Earlier this week, 50 leaders in state law enforcement, health care and policy gathered for the state's first task force on mental health.

Convened by Attorney General Jim Hood, the goal of the task force is to change the conversation on mental health in the state, as reported by Mississippi Today's Larrison Campbell.

The conversations have become necessary following a series of significant budget cuts on the state level that left agencies that help Mississippians with mental health issues in flux.

Following a series of budget cuts, the Department of Mental Health announced in April a workforce reduction of nearly 650 jobs, the largest single-year reduction in state history, according to the State Personnel Board. And the unpredictability of these cuts has led to haphazard changes within the agency and how it works with its partners, Mississippi Today reported.

As attorney general, Hood is also defending the state in a 2016 complaint filed by the Justice Department. That complaint alleges that Mississippi'sDepartment of Mental Health violates patients' rights by sequestering too many of them in antiquated state hospitals, Mississippi Today reported.

As a response, the Department of Mental Health has worked to shift many patients from hospitals to community-based care. Making that shift work, Hood says, requires intricate coordination between the state department, community mental health centers and law enforcement agencies.

Some progress is being made. Law enforcement agencies have undergone mental health de-escalation training. But the effort has been patchwork across the state, something Hood says he hopes can be solved by getting these different agencies in the room together.

The use of task forces to tackle important issues isn't new for Mississippi. In late 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant convened an Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force to battle what he said was "the scourge of drug abuse and addiction" in the state. In August, the task force released its first set of recommendations.

Task forces and working committees are also commonplace in communities throughout Northeast Mississippi, where leaders have counted on volunteer participation to brainstorm and tackle some significant issues.

At their core, these groups work so well because they bring together people of different backgrounds and experiences all focused on the same common goal.

In this case, the task force that's been convened on mental health is a beneficial one that could bring real change for our state. By working together to uncover efficiency opportunities and create other proposals for progress, Mississippi has an opportunity to come out in a better position to assist the residents that need our help the most.


(c)2017 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)

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