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October 2 Status Conference Transcript: US vs. Mississippi

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Last month we told you that Judge Carlton Reeves held a status conference in Mississippi’s mental health lawsuit on October 2. We also said that we would share a transcript of the conference with you when it became available.  It was released last week.

We thank Judge Reeves for recognizing this case as being of “public concern” (page 1, lines 21-25) and therefore making these conferences open to the public. We also appreciate both parties being described as “courteous, diligent and professional” by Special Master Michael Hogan (page 5, lines 23- 24).

We found it concerning that Special Master Hogan, who, to our knowledge, has not been allowed to speak to people receiving or providing services in Mississippi, made the statement “you don’t know what you don’t know” (page 9). Dr. Hogan requested to speak to a wider array of stakeholders at a status conference in April and the State of Mississippi filed several objections in response.

Families as Allies fully supports the cornerstone of disability rights, nothing about us without us. We do not believe a meaningful remedy to this lawsuit can be achieved without it being created in partnership with people receiving services, their families and the organizations they comprise. This crucial input is the most glaring thing that Dr. Hogan has been put in the position of not knowing.

At several points during the conference, the Department of Mental Health’s budget is mentioned or questioned.  We have shared in previous blog posts that funding for Mississippi’s mental health system is complicated.  Community services are paid for through multiple sources, primarily Medicaid, but also private pay, other insurance, state dollars through the Department of Mental Health and local funds and grants for community providers.

There is no formal mechanism to coordinate either the funds or the work of all of these different entities.  Until this lack of coordination is addressed, it is hard to draw conclusions about how much money is needed, in which budgets and for what types of services. The recently appointed Coordinator of Mental Health Accessibility, Bill Rosamond, is tasked with examining these types of issues and also coordinating with the lawsuit.

We look forward to working with Mr. Rosamond. This November 16 Daily Journal article  by Taylor Vance, “Nonprofit leaders urge state to work with advocacy groups in solving mental health access” outlines concerns and offers of assistance that several groups, including Families as Allies, shared with Liz Welch, the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration, who appointed Mr. Rosamond.  You can read the the groups’ letter to Ms. Welch here. 

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