Facility beneficial for patients, area

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The construction of a Crisis Intervention Center in Brookhavenmeans a new psychiatric service for Southwest Mississippi, as wellas economic development for the area, said James G. Chastain,director of Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield.

Chastain spoke Monday as part of a groundbreaking ceremony tocommemorate the start of construction for the center to be locatedon Brookman Drive Extension. Local elected officials andrepresentatives from the Mississippi Legislature and MississippiDepartment of Mental Health were among those present at theevent.

“We want to be a good neighbor and provide a good service toyour community,” Chastain said.

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Additionally, the center will supply nearly 50 new jobs in themedical field for the area, Chastain said.

The center will provide short-term treatment for individuals inneed of acute mental health care in 10 counties in SouthwestMississippi. The chancery court oversees patient admittance, andtreatment is based on a 21-day care plan.

District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, R-Brookhaven, said the centerwill be built quickly and on time. He also stressed that, althoughit is called a mental health center, the crisis center is a smallhospital.

“Mental illness is like any other illness. It needs treatment,”Barnett said.

The groundbreaking ceremony is a step forward in what has been alengthy process.

In 1999, the Legislature approved $17.5 million to build sevencrisis intervention centers statewide.

The Brookhaven facility will be the last of the group to bebuilt. It will operate under Mississippi State Hospital along withcenters in Grenada, Cleveland, Laurel, Batesville, Corinth andNewton.

Gov. Haley Barbour signed House Bill 210 into law in March.

Under that bill, all seven centers will be funded to operate atfull capacity. Construction of the Brookhaven center was halteduntil those operational funds could be secured.

Ed LeGrand, deputy executive director of the State Department ofMental Health, credited Barnett and his colleagues with securingthose funds for the center.

Chastain said the terms of the construction contract are 360days. The land for the facility was donated to the MississippiDepartment of Mental Health by the City of Brookhaven and LincolnCounty.

“The land was a precious gift for mental health. It iswell-deserved and well-needed for our people of southwestMississippi,” said District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts.

LeGrand lauded Brookhaven’s hospitality. He said the statedepartment, which also operates the Juvenile RehabilitationFacility across the street from the planned new facility, is”excited to be here once again in this community.”

“We like to go to communities who want us to come,” LeGrandsaid. “You’ve really rolled out the red carpet by giving us thisproperty and access to it.”

Officials said the center will be a welcome alternative tocurrent options for dealing with mentally ill patients.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, who was unable toattend Monday’s ceremony due to a prior engagement, said patientswho pose a threat to themselves or others must currently be housedin the county jail until a bed at the state hospital becomesavailable.

“If they are mentally ill, we have to somewhat treat them likethey’ve done something wrong since we must keep them in jail,”Bishop said.

But with the new facility, patients will stay in a morecomfortable setting and receive treatment from medicalprofessionals while there.

“The patients’ families will get the benefit of knowingtreatment is starting earlier and that there is a local place forthem to stay,” Bishop said.