As Judge Carlton Reeves noted in his July 14th order, it has been ten years since the initial Department of Justice findings letter, five years since the DOJ filed a lawsuit, and two years since the trial ended. But it only took him 2 days to file this order regarding which remedial plan should be chosen to fix Mississippi’s mental health system, how that plan should be monitored and reviewed, and that a Monitor should be appointed as the Special Master had recommended.
In the order, Judge Reeves accepts Special Master Dr. Michael Hogan’s recommendation of “the State’s proposal regarding the services that need to be delivered, and the United States’ proposal for how those services should be monitored.” Both parties had been in court on Monday, July 12th where Dr. Hogan testified about what he had done to create his remedial plan and then was cross-examined by counsel for both parties. Dr. Hogan’s remedial plan includes a Clinical Review Process that will be a review of 100-200 patients per year, and it is “designed to assure that services are working as intended to address the needs of people with serious mental illness.”
Judge Reeves asked both parties to “each submit two names for a possible Monitor and proposals for the Monitor’s role” and to do so within 30 days, and said in his order that “…a Final Judgement shall issue upon entry of the Order of Appointment and the Remedial Plan.”
We are very grateful to Judge Reeves for making it a priority to focus the court’s attention throughout the lawsuit on how what happens affects real people with mental illness. As he says in his order “…the issues can become so abstract, so esoteric, that the lawyers, the monitors, and even the court can forget that real families and real people are involved…If we fail to recognize that Mississippians with mental illness have lost their children because of their needless institutionalization…then we have done a disservice to those people and to the Americans with Disabilities Act we are supposed to enforce.”
As he says at the end of his order, “Mississippians with serious mental illness need help and this Order seeks to give them the help they so desperately need.”
We thank Judge Reeves for recognizing the special expertise Dr. Hogan brings not just as a clinician, but also as a family member, “That family-level perspective is something with which Dr. Hogan has extensive familiarity. He testified about how his sister’s life has been shaped by her mental illness and how he has assisted her in navigating the systems leading to a more productive life. Another of his family members also has experienced the interconnectedness of a State’s criminal justice and mental health systems. Dr. Hogan’s personal experience and connection to these issues obviously help inform his opinions and recommendations. This enhances, not clouds, Dr. Hogan’s insight and background. The Court and the parties have expressed their gratitude for his service. It has been valuable.”
We were touched at the hearing that Dr. Hogan himself spoke about his perspective as a family member and acknowledged that as important as that perspective is, his family member with mental illness was the true expert on what she needs to be able to live the life she wants to live.
We encourage the state of Mississippi and its attorneys to thoughtfully contemplate the examples of both Judge Reeves and Dr. Hogan.
Here are some recent news articles about the order.