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Progress being made at state’s mental health facilities

BAILEY

By LYNN LOFTON

The state’s mental health system is complex and serves not only people who have a mental illness, but also those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance use disorders. Strides have been made over the past several years to strengthen the mental health care system to meet residents’ needs.

“The progress that has been made and the progress that will continue to be made would not be possible without the commitment and efforts of our staff, community service providers, other state agencies, peer specialists, advocates, family members and our community partners,” says Wendy Bailey, Chief of staff for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. “Services and supports have been expanded and new ones implemented to help in our mission, including mobile crisis response teams, community transition homes, crisis stabilization beds, Programs of Assertive Community Treatment, Intensive Community Outreach and Recovery Teams, court liaisons, Crisis Intervention Teams, supported employment, supported housing, and Mental Health First Aid training for the public. While there is no perfect system, that doesn’t mean we will stop working to improve the lives of the people we serve.”

She points out that the state’s four psychiatric hospitals have a lower readmission rate than the national average. These hospitals are working with Community Mental Health Centers to improve the transition process as people leave inpatient care and return to their communities.

“As an agency, we have and always will acknowledge weaknesses along with strengths as we seek improvement. We want to continue improving and supporting a continuum of care,” Bailey said. “In partnership with peer support specialists, advocacy organizations, families, state agencies and many other partners we have made many improvements and will continue our commitment to the mission of our agency and Mississippians.”

She lists understanding the importance of mental health and making it a priority as a major issue for the state. That means tossing out preconceived notions. “Mental illness is much more common than we think. An estimated one in five Mississippians will experience mental health issues during their lifetimes,” she said. “Though seldom talked about as openly as physical health issues, mental illnesses are common and, more importantly, they are treatable. There is nothing to be ashamed of for seeking help. The more we talk about mental health, the more we understand how to support one another, and the more we understand how to support one another, the stronger we become.”

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health requires a group of Core Services be provided by every Community Mental Health Center in the state. This includes services such as Outpatient Therapy, Community Support Services, Psychiatric/Physician Services, Crisis Response Services, Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Targeted Case Management, and others. “These other services such as crisis stabilization units and intensive community supports have been expanded to additional counties in the state,” Bailey said. “While every service is not available in every county, progress has been made to help improve access to care.”

Services expanded in the past year:

» five more 16-bed Crisis Stabilization Units for a total of 13

These beds offer time-limited residential treatment services to serve adults with severe mental health episodes and have a 91.6 percent rate for diverting people from having to enter the state hospitals for inpatient treatment.

» provided funding for two additional Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams for a total of 10

» seven regional Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) awarded grants for Supported Employment programs

» collaborated with Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services on implementation of Supported Employment around the state

» through the collaboration, CMHCs will hire or designate Supported Employment Specialists to work with vocational rehabilitation counselors to coordinate employment services and monitor health of employees

Supported Employment is an evidence-based way to help people diagnosed with mental illnesses secure and keep employment.

» Supported Housing is also available through a program known as CHOICE – Creating Housing Options in Communities for Everyone. CHOICE ensures people with a serious mental illness can live in the most integrated settings in the communities of their choice by providing an adequate array of community supports/services.

» CHOICE program is a partnership between DMH, Mississippi United to End Homelessness, Open Doors Homeless Coalition, Mississippi Home Corporation, and the CMHCs.

» piloted an Intensive Community Outreach and Recovery Team (ICORT), with the Region 2 CMHC, Communicare

» providing four additional grants for ICORTs in regions that do not have a PACT Team. These teams are able to target rural areas where there may be staffing issues or clients are spread out over a large geographical area.

ICORTs are mobile and deliver services in the community to enable an individual to live in his or her own residence.

» working to expand Crisis Intervention Teams as a partnerships between law enforcement agencies, community mental health centers and other behavioral health professionals in an effort to divert people exhibiting mental illness symptoms from arrest

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About Lynn Lofton