Attorney General Jim Hood Responds to Opinion to Improve State Mental Health Services

September 4, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood released a statement in response to an opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves regarding the states’ mental health services.

“Since February 2013, I have been warning the Legislature about their underfunding of community mental healthcare. I sent the Legislature letter after letter informing them of the mental health litigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against our state for failing to adequately fund mental health care in our communities. We even provided the costs paid by other states facing this litigation. The Legislature continuously chose to put money towards big corporate tax cuts rather than meet the needs of those among us who need our assistance. The result has been a lawsuit and a federal court order that will cost us more.”

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves released an opinion Tuesday holding that Mississippi’s mental health system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing our citizens with mental illness to either live without help in the community or be institutionalized. As Judge Reeves wrote, “It should come as no surprise that when the State underfunds its large systems, whether schools, social service agencies, prisons, or mental health providers, the systems become ripe for constitutional violations. If it remains uninterested in fixing this problem, the State will be doomed to repeat it—and repeatedly have to defend it in federal court.” Now that we will be ordered to spend more money on mental health services, the state should take advantage of expanding our Medicaid program in order to use federal funds to pay for services that will be ordered by the court.

General Hood concludes, “I, like Judge Reeves, am optimistic about the future of Mississippi’s mental health system. I’ve been working with mental health professionals and law enforcement for 25 years as a prosecutor. Additionally, my office formed the Mississippi Mental Health Task Force in 2017 to bring many voices to the table to create recommendations for improving services for the mentally ill in the state. The state has made progress in expanding community mental health programs, but more needs to be done. We will continue to work with the court to increase the mental health services available to Mississippians.”

*Copies of letters sent to the Legislature available here.

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