Crisis center’s groundbreaking welcome event for mentally ill

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 26, 2006

A long-awaited day arrived Monday when community and stateofficials broke ground for a new Mental Health Crisis InterventionCenter to serve patients in Brookhaven and the rest of SouthwestMississippi.

Patients, their families and others familiar with the impact ofmental illness have been waiting for a treatment option sincebefore 1999, when state lawmakers approved Brookhaven and six othercities as sites for the crisis centers. The centers are designed toprovide short-term care for mentally ill patients.

However, funds to fully operate the centers were neverappropriated due to an economic downturn and other factors.

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A further complication for southwest Mississippi was that theBrookhaven center was at the bottom of the list to be built. Whilethe other centers were constructed and operated at half-capacity,land for the local facility on Brookman Drive Extension remaineduntouched.

Full operational funding for the crisis centers was approvedduring this year’s Legislative session. With that action, stateofficials also moved to begin construction of the Brookhavencenter.

As officials pointed out during Monday’s ceremony, the crisiscenter will provide multiple benefits for the area.

While the center’s anticipated 50 jobs will bring an economicboost, its greatest benefit will be providing a suitablealternative to the deplorable practice of putting mental healthpatients in jail because there has been no room elsewhere. Theywere in jail but had committed no crimes.

State officials said the construction contract for the newcrisis center is 365 days.

So, in about a year, the doors for housing mentally ill patientsin the jailhouse can close because new doors at the crisis centerwill be open. And that truly will be a long-awaited day for thosein need of the center’s services.