Mississippi Special Master and Proposed Mental Health Coordinator Could Provide Opportunities for Families

Mississippi Special Master and Proposed Mental Health Coordinator Could Provide Opportunities for Families

We support each other and work together to make things better for our children….. these are the words we use to describe the work of Families as Allies.

Joy Hogge - Families as Allies
Joy Hogge, executive director of Families as Allies

Two recent developments—the appointment of a Special Master in a court case against the state of Mississippi and legislation creating a Mental Health Coordinator (SB2610)—may provide opportunities for families to work together to make the state’s system of care for mental health more responsive to our children and to us.

Both of these developments stem from a United States Department of Justice 2016 lawsuit alleging that Mississippi does not provide enough of the right kinds of supports for adults with mental illness to be able to live in the community and that this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The State lost this lawsuit after a month-long trial in June 2019.

Although this lawsuit is specifically about adults, reform to the adult system is likely to benefit children and families as well.

On February 25, 2020, Judge Carlton Reeves appointed Dr. Michael Hogan to be the Special Master in the case. Dr. Hogan will work with the two parties to craft a remedy to the problems identified in the lawsuit. Based on the trial, we anticipate this will include enhancing crisis services and peer support, two services that families repeatedly describe as essential but not necessarily currently working in the most helpful way.

I encourage all of you to follow the remedy process as it unfolds and give feedback to the organizations working with your children. Let them know how you would like to see these remedies implemented.

Senator Hob Bryan, chairman of the Public Health and Welfare committee, recently introduced Senate Bill 2610.  The bill creates a Mental Health Coordinator position to look at how all aspects of our public mental health system are functioning and then report to the legislature about what is needed to make it work better. The Coordinator will get input from many groups, including organizations such as Families as Allies and people receiving services.

I urge all of you to think about how you as individuals and Families as Allies as a whole can best work with the Coordinator to make things better for our children if this bill passes and becomes a law.

With Warm Gratitude and a United Heart on behalf of Families as Allies –  Joy

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