On Monday, September 27, The State filed a motion for a partial stay (the legal term for stopping some parts of the order) in Judge Reeves’ final ruling in Mississippi’s mental health lawsuit. The State’s memorandum explaining its request begins with, “This Court should partially stay its Remedial Order (ECF 278) pending resolution of Mississippi’s upcoming appeal from that Order,” revealing that the State also plans to appeal Judge Reeves’ verdict.
Judge Reeves ruled that Mississippi’s mental health system does not provide enough of the rights kinds of services in the community for people with mental illness and issued a remedial order of what the state needs to do to fix those issues. He ordered that the services that the state already certifies and says it offers be provided to people who need them; that people be asked if they are receiving the services and if the services help them, and that an independent monitor make sure that all these things are happening. This verdict is what the State plans to appeal.
The State lists four reasons why a stay should be granted:
- “First, Mississippi is likely to prevail on the merits on both liability and remedy……..there is little precedential authority regarding the application of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to a state-wide mental health system or the standard a state-wide mental health system must meet to comply with the ADA.”
- “Second, absent a partial stay, Mississippi will suffer irreparable injuries from undue interference with its mental health system and a fundamental alteration of that system both in costs and structure.”
- “Third, a partial stay will not substantially injure the United States because, since the close of trial, Mississippi has expanded community-based services and now complies, or at least substantially complies, with the ADA. Mississippi plans to timely file a notice of appeal seeking appropriate appellate relief, and to ask the Fifth Circuit to expedite the appeal.” (emphasis added)
- “Fourth, a partial stay of the Remedial Order benefits the public interest by allowing the thorough review of the case on appeal and because, as a matter of law, Mississippi’s interest and the public’s interest overlap where, as here, the State is the appealing party.”
The services that the State is asking to not provide during the stay are Peer Support Services at satellite CMHC offices; funding an additional 250 CHOICE housing vouchers in fiscal year 2022 and an additional 250 CHOICE housing vouchers in fiscal year 2023; developing and implementing a clinical review process to ask people who are receiving services if those services help them, and developing an Implementation Plan about how the Department of Mental Health will do the things that Judge Reeves ordered.
The memorandum argues that the mental health system cannot provide these services because the Mississippi state legislature has not appropriated funding for them. In a legislative budget hearing on the afternoon of Friday, September 24, Senator John Hohrn asked the Department of Mental Health’s executive director, Wendy Bailey, about the lawsuit and if an appeal was planned. Ms. Bailey did not mention the funding needed for peer support, housing vouchers and the required assessments. She also said she did not know if an appeal was planned and referred those questions to the Attorney General’s office.
The memorandum questions throughout whether the ADA can be applied to state mental health systems and how that can be determined. Yet the memorandum goes on to say that the stay will not hurt Mississippians with mental illness because the state’s mental health system is already in at least partial compliance with the ADA.
The request for a stay and the plan to appeal are both terribly disappointing, but not at all surprising. They follow a ten-year pattern of the State fighting the obvious – that it is true that people with mental illness in Mississippi do not consistently get the help that they need to live in the community if they want to. There are good providers and good things that happen, but there is not a statewide system in place to make sure people reliably receive care and that providers get the support that they need to make that happen.
In addition, the state’s attorneys have completely blocked any input from people with mental illness and their families into this lawsuit…..and have gone on to presume that they know how the ADA can be defined for people with mental illness – with no input from them.
If the state could fix this lawsuit without outside intervention and monitoring, it would have done so. The people involved have repeatedly proven that they cannot.
We urge all of you to join us in insisting that the Attorney General’s office not appeal and that the Department of Mental Health step up and tell the Attorney General’s office that their unending legal wrangling is keeping people with mental illness from getting the help that they need. Tell them to cease this senseless waste of tax dollars and callous disregard for people with mental illness and their families. It is long past time.
Douglas T. Miracle-State Government
MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE
James W Shelson
PHELPS DUNBAR, LLP – Jackson
Wendy D. Bailey
Mississippi Department of Mental Health
If you have feedback for the United States:
Sarah L. Malks
Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice
Related news coverage (listed in order in which they were published):
STATE ASKS FEDERAL JUDGE FOR STAY IN MENTAL HEALTH LAWSUIT, PLANS TO APPEAL VERDICT by STEVE WILSON Clarksdale Press Register
Mississippi asks to delay order that it create mental health plan by The Associated Press