State moving forward on crisis center

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

A long sought-after mental health crisis center in Brookhaven toprovide services to 10 counties in southwest Mississippi willbecome a reality.

With Gov. Haley Barbour’s signature Monday on the billauthorizing full operational funding for the center, Col. J.K.”Hoopy” Stringer, director of the state Department of Finance andAdministration, said today he could proceed with building thefacility.

“We’re going to move forward with building the crisis center,”he said.

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The first step, Stringer said, is to rebid the contract for theconstruction of the facility.

“We should be in that process within a matter of days,” Stringersaid.

Once the contract has been approved, he said, constructionshould begin soon. Construction, however, would depend on thecontractor’s schedule.

Under the original plan, the 20-bed facility would have astaffing of approximately 30-40 people and provide some outpatientservices.

At the moment, Stringer said, those plans have not beenchanged.

District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, R-Brookhaven, said he was”very pleased that the mentally ill in south Mississippi will nowhave a treatment facility in southwest Mississippi. This is animportant day for those individuals and families.”

Construction of the Brookhaven facility was one of seven fundedduring the 1999 Legislative session. Six have been built – inAlcorn, Bolivar, Grenada, Jones, Newton and Panola counties.

Stringer canceled a contract to build the Brookhaven center in2004, blaming an economic downturn beginning in 2000 for the delay.He said the state could not afford to fund the operations of theexisting facilities and he would not release the funding toconstruct the center here until the operating funds becameavailable.

The center will serve as a sort of staging area for patientsuntil room becomes available at a state hospital. Without thecenter, mentally ill patients that could pose a danger tothemselves or others have to be housed in the county jail, many byorder of the chancery clerk.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop welcomed the newson the crisis center plans.

“I can promise you this – there are 10 chancery clerks insouthwest Mississippi that are very happy to hear the news thatbuilding is about to start,” Bishop said.

However, Bishop said “we’ve been saying all along this day wouldcome when all the centers would be funded and the crisis centerwould be a year or more behind everyone else and that is what hashappened.

“I just hope this is done quickly so the mentally ill in jailsthroughout southwest Mississippi can receive proper treatment.”

The center will be located on Brookman Drive Extension on landdonated to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health by the Cityof Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

The bill also fully funds the other six facilities in thenetwork beginning July 1. The existing centers had been operatingat half capacity.