Area, mentally ill in need of intervention center

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To borrow a famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams,” ifthe state will build a mental health crisis intervention center inBrookhaven, patients will no doubt come.

The Brookhaven center, which would serve 10 southwestMississippi counties, is the only one of seven facilities that hasnot been built. Of the centers that have been built, only the onein Corinth is fully operational, and others are working at 50percent capacity.

Although pending legislation this year would provide fulloperational funding for all seven centers, state officials areoffering no clues on when – or even if – the Brookhaven facilitywill be built.

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This stance is putting Brookhaven and the rest of southwestMississippi further behind as far as treatment of citizens withmental illnesses. The closest crisis center for Brookhaven is threecounties away in Jones County, which is even farther away forcounties like Franklin or Adams.

With no centers nearby, what’s the alternative destination forseriously ill mental health patients?

Unfortunately, in too many cases, it’s jail.

Far from a “Field of Dreams,” this arrangement is a “Field ofNightmares” for mental patients, their family members and also forjail staffs that are ill-equipped to take care of the special-needsoccupants. Also ill-equipped are county budgets that must bear thefinancial burden of housing the mentally ill until space isavailable elsewhere.

From a fiscal standpoint, we understand state officialsquestioning the wisdom of building a crisis center if there are nofunds to operate it. However, a cyclical economy will come backaround to better times when state coffers are flush and there ismoney to fully operate the crisis centers.

When that happens, though – if there is no movement towardbuilding the Brookhaven crisis center – southwest Mississippi willbe no closer to having a much-needed facility for treatment ofmental health patients. If it’s not built, they can not come – andthat’s a tragic reality that should not have to be.