State has better alternatives than closing facilities

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 29, 2009

Questions raised by state Board of Mental Health members whenasking for a closure plan for the Mississippi Adolescent Center onBrookman Drive are all good ones that deserve thoroughconsideration before such a drastic move happens.

Those questions involve provisions for client care, employeeassistance, property security and others. No decision has been madeto close MAC, which was formerly known as the JuvenileRehabilitation Facility, but a contingency plan would be the firststep in the process.

When similar mental health facilities in the state are onlybeing asked to prepare plans for potential budget reductions, anyjustification for closing Brookhaven’s facility appears slim.

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As District 92 Rep. Becky Currie has pointed out, it seems thatsome belt-tightening moves – such as curbing administrator perksthat include free housing with utilities paid for by the state andother benefits totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide- would be a better alternative than outright closing Brookhaven’sfacility. Or any facility for that matter.

Client care – not excessive administrator or employee benefits -needs to be foremost in the minds of mental health officials asthey endeavor to “help those who can’t help themselves.” Anyfacility closures would only mean longer wait periods for those inneed of care and longer travels for loved ones looking to visitthem in their care centers.

While some – including a mental health board member – havedownplayed the role of money in the MAC closure consideration, thefact remains the facility serves an important role in the mentalhealth mission.

In addition to singling out Brookhaven for the loss of afacility, MAC’s closure would be an unnecessary and unfortunatesetback in the department’s ability to carry out that mission.