Mississippi, through the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Mental Health, has been embroiled in a legal battle with the United States Department of Justice over its mental health system for the past ten years. In 2019, Judge Carlton Reeves found Mississippi in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because too many people with mental illness were in institutions due to a lack of the right kinds of services in the community. This is considered discrimination.
After the verdict, the parties worked to develop a mutually agreed-upon remedy with the help of an appointed Special Master, Dr. Michael Hogan. The two sides were unable to agree, so Dr. Hogan was asked to craft a plan. His plan adopted most of the State’s recommendations but added monitoring and a clinical review process. Judge Reeves fully adopted this plan.
The United States and the State of Mississippi were then ordered by Judge Reeves to submit monitoring proposals for how the remedy of the lawsuit could be implemented. Those proposals were due this past Friday, August 13.
In their proposals, both sides recommend that Dr. Hogan be the monitor. The United States’ proposal is anchored on four principles for the role of a monitor: access, efficiency, independence, and transparency. The proposal goes on to describe the duties and reporting process for the monitor. We appreciate that the United States’ proposal includes that the monitor can get feedback from people receiving services and those providing services.
The State’s proposal begins with these two sentences: “The State of Mississippi responds to the Order (ECF 273) requiring the parties to each submit two names of a possible Monitor and proposals for the Monitor’s role. Mississippi Does Not Consent To A Monitor And Maintains All Of Its Prior Objections.” The state proposes that monitoring, if it occurs, be limited to capacity and funding provisions rather than outcomes for people using the system. It also proposes that a review of services be limited to the monitor verifying what the executive director of the Department of Mental Health said in her sworn declaration about services that was submitted after trial—so, therefore, not subject to cross-examination or independent verification. The State proposal indicates throughout that it believes it was never in violation of the ADA, it objects to the verdict and it will appeal.
Judge Reeves has scheduled a Zoom hearing on the monitoring proposals for September 2 at 1:30 p.m. We do not yet know if it is open to the public.
If you have feedback or questions for either side in US v. Mississippi, here is their contact information:
For the State of Mississippi:
Doug T. Miracle, Civil Litigation
Office of Attorney General Lynn Fitch
For the United States:
Sarah L. Malks
Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice