State fulfilling pledge to area’s mentally ill

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 13, 2006

While long overdue, construction of a mental health crisiscenter for southwest Mississippi should begin in the near futurefollowing action last week by Gov. Haley Barbour and the stateDepartment of Finance and Administration.

The center, to be located on Brookman Drive Extension, is thelast of seven centers to be built around the state. It is intendedto serve 10 counties in southwest Mississippi.

The seven centers were approved by the Legislature in 1999 and agroundbreaking ceremony for the Brookhaven facility was heldshortly thereafter. But economic and other factors prompted thecancellation of the local facility’s construction contract in2004.

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With Barbour’s signing of a bill to fully fund the sevencenters’ operation, the last roadblock to the Brookhaven center’sconstruction was removed. DFA officials said the bidding processfor construction should begin soon.

Once built, the center will be able to house and treat mentallyill patients until space becomes available at Whitfield or anotherlarger facility.

Currently, many of those patients have had to be housed incounty jails. That situation has been derided as cruel and inhumanetreatment for mentally ill citizens who are guilty of no crime.

With the Brookhaven’s center construction, the area’s mentallyill citizens will have a proper place to go to get help. We applaudand appreciate state officials for following through on a promiseto this area’s mentally ill citizens and their family members.