The court-appointed independent monitor released his initial report last week about Mississippi’s mental health system and he gives the state an incomplete grade.
Dr. Michael Hogan told the court in the report that while the state has made progress, he couldn’t confirm whether the Department of Mental Health is providing the services to the seriously mentally ill to continue their recovery.
The report, which was released on March 4, was a preliminary report as some parts of the ruling issued by U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves have been stayed pending the results of the appeal.
The state is appealing some parts of the September 7 ruling by Reeves to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The state argues the decision will subject the state’s mental health system to perpetual federal oversight.
The appealed decision requires the state to end its over-reliance on the institutionalization of the seriously mentally ill (in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act) and devise a plan to correct it while being monitored by the court.
Hogan detailed in the report the methodology that he and his team are using to evaluate the mental health system’s compliance with the requirements to reduce hospitalizations of the serious mentally ill.
One problem that Hogan and his team have found is the varied types of electronic record-keeping software. Of the six regions visited, only two shared the same software and the report says this made tracking patient care difficult.
The monitor also found that the state is doing a better job of planning a seriously mentally ill patient’s care before they’re discharged from one of the state’s mental health hospitals or centers.
Hogan noted that in 32 percent of the cases of those committed to a state hospital, there was no diagnosis of a serious mental illness such as dementia, schizophrenia or substance abuse. The monitor also said that assessment for more intensive community-based treatment to prevent readmission to a state mental facility still needs work.
The federal government has successfully argued that the state's mental health system violates the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court says individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community under the Americans with Disabilities Act rather than be institutionalized.
The Department of Justice commenced an investigation in 2011 and sent a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ attempted to negotiate a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won on September 3, 2019 in a bench trial conducted by Reeves, who ruled in favor of the federal government. He designated a special master, Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.