Mental health agencies restructure

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lincoln County will no longer host an alcohol and drugrehabilitation program after the exchange of power between incomingand outgoing community mental health groups is complete.

Dr. Steve Ellis, executive director of Southwest MississippiCommunity Mental Health Complex (Region 11), said the foundationvoted last week to move the men’s and women’s A&D programs atNewhaven Recovery Center to a new location in another of theregion’s counties. Rehab services for county residents will now beoffered at a facility in Mendenhall operated by Region 8 MentalHealth Services, which will take over local mental healthoperations in Lincoln County on Oct. 1.

“We might be able to extend our time at Newhaven to give us moretime to find a place to go, but eventually Newhaven will bemoving,” Ellis said. “It may be longer than a few weeks, but it’snot going to be any longer than it takes to find another site torelocate the program to.”

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The Newhaven move comes as Region 11 restructures itself afterbeing evicted from Lincoln County by supervisors last month.Supervisors voted 4-1 to end the county’s 36-year relationship withRegion 11 and bring in Region 8, a geographically smaller andwell-funded group headquartered around Jackson that plans to create50 local jobs and construct a $4 million facility.

The future of Newhaven, a residential 12-step recovery center,was the most difficult question in the transfer. The state’s 15community mental health groups are required to operate A&Dcenters as part of their treatment programs.

Region 11 couldn’t just drop the service, and needs time to finda suitable location in its shrunken nine-county area. The region isworking with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health to extendits stay in Lincoln County and find a new home elsewhere.

“It’s not going to be like we can just find a facility inturnkey condition in a few weeks,” Ellis said. “We need a sitethat’s capable of housing multiple men and women that will be intreatment for the 42-day period. We need bathrooms, showers,kitchens, office space, bedroom space, program rooms, group rooms -it’s going to require certain things you can’t just findanywhere.”

For a while, Lincoln County residents in need of A&Dtreatment will have two choices – enroll at Newhaven or join Region8’s program in Mendenhall, approximately 45 miles away. Region 8has a fleet of vans available to transport patients to and from thefacility, and it’s also constructing a new A&D facility forwomen in Hazlehurst.

“We will take care of 100 percent of the people in LincolnCounty who need A&D treatment at Region 8,” said Region 8Executive Director Dave Van. “But just because Region 8 isavailable, that doesn’t exclude them from going to Newhaven.”

Once Region 11 moves Newhaven away, however, the Mendenhallclinic will likely be the only destination for Lincoln Countypatients. Van didn’t rule out the possibility of starting a secondA&D program in Lincoln County, but that will depend on thedemand for those services.

“We will always provide the need,” he said. “We aren’t going toconstruct a facility and it be completely empty, but we will alwaysprovide for those who need A&D services.”

While the rehab solution will take longer to work out, theremainder of the transfer will be easier. Both the Region 11foundation and commission have voted to lease all Lincoln Countyproperties to Region 8, and Region 8 will likely take the deal. Itneeds facilities in which to operate while it constructs the newcentral facility over the next two years, and moving into Region11’s existing facilities is the easiest answer to continue mentalhealth services.

Those properties include the Lifeskills center on MonticelloStreet and the mental health office near King’s Daughters MedicalCenter. Newhaven, too, will eventually be offered for leasing.

“We’re thrilled. We think that’s the best solution so there’snot a gap or disruption in services,” Van said. “This will allowconsumers to have the same location to come to for services. We canbuild on that. That’s our ideal situation.”