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We Shared These Legislative Recommendations During Mental Health and Wellness Day at the Capitol

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We enjoyed seeing everyone who came to the Capitol on March 12 for Mental Health and Wellness Day and who let your legislators know what matters to you and your family regarding mental health.

Families as Allies shared information about two bills during Capitol Day: House Bill 1640, introduced by Representative Sam Creekmore, and Senate Bill 2744, introduced by Senator Nicole Boyd. Both bills focus on civil commitment reform. They both require that community mental health centers screen people before anyone can file commitment paperwork about them. Both bills require mental health centers to report more data about what happens to people seeking care, and both bills limit, but do not eliminate, holding someone with mental illness in jail. Senate Bill 2744 also strengthens the Department of Mental Health’s monitoring of community mental health centers.

We appreciate legislators paying so much attention to mental health in this session. Mississippi must face and fix the humanitarian and public health crisis it has created by routinely jailing people with mental illness when they need care. We shared these recommended steps legislators can take to strengthen these bills in particular and mental health reform in general:

  1. Expand public hearings about the mental health system to people with mental illnesses, families, care providers and others who care about mental health. 
  2. Before making changes to monitoring in the bills, ask the community mental health centers (CMHCs) what kind of support from the Department of Mental Health (DMH) would be most helpful to them (applies only to SB 2744).
  3. Be cautious about restricting CMHC salaries in the bills and accidentally limiting qualified candidates. If salary ranges are restricted, apply those limits to all agencies designated as CMHCS (applies only to SB 2744). 
  4. Ensure screening processes in the bills support people with mental illness and their families rather than make them feel judged or unduly burdened. 
  5. Shorten the timelines and simplify the processes for screenings in the bills to decrease the likelihood of putting people who are in crisis at risk for harm. 
  6. In the bills, mandate that state hospitals admit individuals who meet the criteria for inpatient care and whose needs cannot be safely met in community crisis stabilization units due to violent behavior or complex medical needs. 
  7. Require in the bills that state hospitals follow the DMH’s criteria for crisis services: “Crisis Residential Services must be designed to accept admissions (voluntary and involuntary) twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week.” (p. 112, DMH Operational Standards). 
  8. Eliminate all references to holding people in jail in the bills. 

Here is the handout Families as Allies shared at the Capitol (updated to clarify which points are specific to Senate Bill 2744).

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