• 61°

Mental health move hits snag

The transition of power between two mental health agencies inLincoln County is in motion but also in discord, with a few minorsnags over the past two weeks causing discomfort for the top countysupervisor.

Board of supervisors president Doug Moak voiced his concernsabout the move Monday after the board was updated on the progressof Brandon-based Region 8 Mental Health Services’ move into LincolnCounty and the exit of former provider Southwest MississippiCommunity Mental Health Complex (Region 11). Two main points of thedeal – Region 8’s leasing of Region 11 facilities and the transferof local clients into the new region’s care – have met withdifficulty, prompting Moak to voice his disappointment.

“When we made this decision, we were pretty much assured of asmooth transition, and it looks to me like that’s out the window,”he said.

Voicing his own frustration to supervisors, Region 8 ExecutiveDirector Dave Van said he’s had no contact with Region 11 officialsregarding his agency’s leasing of Region 11’s Brookhavenproperties, adding he would likely seek new places to rent if nodeal has been reached by week’s end. The Region 11 foundation andcommission voted early last month to lease all the organization’slocal properties to Region 8, which plans to use them to continueproviding mental health services until the construction of a new,$4 million central facility can be built in the city in twoyears.

The lack of a leasing agreement leaves Region 8 with less timeto move its programs and services in by the deadline of Oct. 1.Region 11 has already closed two programs to prepare for its ousterfrom Lincoln County.

“We agreed we would all work together for a smooth transition…and I haven’t had any communication from them whatsoever,” Vansaid. “In my mind, we can’t wait until Sept. 15 to go out and finda place and lease and put the resources in we need to operate byOct. 1. We have to know something pretty soon.”

But when contacted later Monday, Region 11 Executive DirectorDr. Steve Ellis said he’s waiting on appraisal reports of theBrookhaven properties, without which he can’t determine a fairmarket lease value for Region 8.

“We’re doing everything we can do to facilitate, but maybe it’snot going as smoothly as (Van) wanted,” he said. “We’re not doinganything to deliberately obstruct the process, we’re just waitingon information in order to be able to offer him a contract. I thinkthere’s just some frustration that he has a plan, a timetable inhis mind and what’s happening is not fitting in to histimetable.”

At least one local patient has been caught up in the mentalhealth regions’ transition. Van told supervisors Monday a localclient had been given erroneous information about options forcontinuing treatment with Region 8, adding that MississippiDepartment of Mental Health officials had to go to Region 11’sheadquarters in McComb and straighten out the situation lastmonth.

The female mental health patient and her family reported theincident to Moak.

“They were telling her it was her last day to come, and you’llhave to go to McComb and pay $65 and your supervisor did this,”Moak told the board.

Ellis scoffed at the accusation, adding that his meeting withDMH officials was solely to bring the state agency up to speed onRegion 11’s transition plans, and the misinformed client was justthat.

“(DMH) did not chastise our organization in any way,” he said.”My understanding is one consumer called Mr. Moak about being upsetabout something regarding the transition. I took care of thatsituation and sent word to (Van) to clarify what I did to take careof it and our staff met with the family.” DMH spokesperson WendyBailey said the agency’s Office of Constituency Services receivedsome calls from anxious clients regarding the transfer from Region11 to Region 8 and has encouraged both regions work together forthe patients’ sake.

With all the frustration floating through the boardroom Monday,Van pointed out to supervisors Lincoln County has paid up itsannual $53,000 contribution to Region 11 and the agency’s servicesare beginning to close to make room for Region 8. Moak brieflyentertained the idea of asking Region 11 for a reimbursement onpart of the payment, but no motion was made.

Not all the news about the two mental health regions Monday wasbad news.

Van introduced supervisors to a handful of new Region 8employees who will work in Lincoln County, the first four of 50promised new jobs. These first four – all directors and clinicians- are experienced mental health operatives who’ve been brought intothe county to run Region 8’s new local services.

Region 8 also took over the Brookhaven Crisis InterventionCenter Sunday, and although the center has yet to employ its crisisintervention team – guaranteed to keep mental patients out of jail- already the effects of Region 8’s crisis response abilities hasbeen felt.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop recounted anepisode last week where a 79-year-old grandmother was facing acommitment hearing and the once-mandatory stay in jail until a bedcould be found.

Bishop arranged a quick meeting with a judge for the hearing andRegion 8 sent down a team to evaluate. The woman skipped jail andwas committed to a psychiatric hospital that contracts with Region8 to receive treatment while awaiting a bed at Mississippi StateHospital.

“They’ve been a tremendous help,” said Lincoln County SheriffSteve Rushing. “Normally, we would have had to go pick her up. Allwe had to do this time was transport her to the hospital.”