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Ground breaking set for new health center

/ Ground breaking ceremonies for a new state mental healthcrisis center are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. at thecorner of Brookman Drive and Brookman Drive Extension, state andarea officials said.

/ The approximately $2.5 million facility is expected to have 32permanent staff members and an annual operating budget of around$1.4 million, said Roger McMurtry, bureau chief for the MississippiDepartment of Mental Health. The 16-bed center will work under thedirection of the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.

/ “It’ll be a satellite program of theirs,” McMurtry said,adding that the center will serve mainly southwest Mississippipatients.

/ McMurtry said the center will be designed to treat patients’acute, or short-term, needs.

/ “We hope an average stay will be two to three days, but theabsolute maximum will be 14 days,” McMurtry said. “After that,they’ll have to be moved to another facility.”

/ McMurtry said the center will take court-court orderedcommitments and voluntary commitments.

/ “A lot of people who have mental illness know when they arestarting to get sick again,” McMurtry said, adding that the centerwill be able to treat those patients quickly and allow them toreturn home.

/ The Brookhaven center is one of seven planned for around thestate.

/ “Brookhaven’s should be the third one completed,” McMurtrysaid.

/ McMurtry said the center has a 300-day construction period. Heexpected it to be in operation in about a year or possibly soonerdepending on construction and weather.

/ A center in Corinth is slated to be open by around June with aNewton facility currently about 50 percent complete, McMurtry said.Following Brookhaven, others to be built include centers inGrenada, Cleveland, Batesville and Laurel.

/ “If all goes right, we should have them all open in the nextfiscal year, which ends June 30, 2002,” McMurtry said.

/ Plans are to eventually have 15 centers around the state.

/ “That’s our goal,” McMurtry said.

/ The centers’ purpose will be to treat people quickly so nopatient ever has to be placed somewhere that’s inappropriate,McMurtry said. Although mental health officials are reluctant touse the word, jails are one place where mental health patients havebeen housed in the past because there has been no room at a statehospital.

/ Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett was looking forward to theaddition of the