New Start For Mental Health

Published 6:49 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

After meeting the needs of local patients from a distance forthe past two months, Lincoln County’s new mental health providerwill establish its presence on the ground in Brookhaven Friday.

Region 8 Mental Health Services will open the doors to its new,temporary office at 624 Highway 51 North – the old BrookhavenChildren’s Clinic – on Friday, the deadline it agreed to whencounty supervisors contracted with the organization in June. Thebuilding will be the local center for Region 8’s mental healthoutpatient services arsenal, which contains a variety of treatmentoptions that fall under the three main branches of mental healthtreatment – mental health, intellectual disability and alcohol anddrug rehabilitation.

“We’ll have the whole gamut of services available in BrookhavenFriday,” said Dave Van, executive director of Region 8. “We’ll haveour mental health clinical coordinator, additional crisisemployees, therapy services, physician services, case management,adult clubhouse services geared toward the elderly, pharmacyservices, nursing services…. There are a lot of other serviceswithin each component.”

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David Miller, who will serve as the administrator for the newmental health center and the Crisis Intervention Center, saidRegion 8’s many services are open and available to anyone in need -including patients with no mental illness. The organization alsooffers mental health maintenance-type services, like prevention,behavioral services, parenting skills and family counseling, hesaid.

Region 8’s first order of business in the city will be to buildpartnerships with the public through contact with organizationslike schools, law enforcement and the hospital.

“The first thing we’re going to do in the community is build aclose relationship with the folks we want to partner with to breakdown the stigma,” Miller said. “We need a community that’s open andaccepting to helping people achieve access to these services.”

Miller and his team have been active in Lincoln County sinceearly August, operating 24-hour crisis services and running theBrookhaven Crisis Intervention Center, which was contracted to thegroup by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. Where the CIConce served as an annex to Mississippi State Hospital, the facilityis now serving its intended purpose – operating like a mentalhealth emergency room.

The CIC has treated about 50 clients so far, Miller said, withonly one client necessitating transfer to the state hospital atWhitfield. The average length of stay for a patient to bestabilized, treated and returned to a family setting is seven days,he said.

The CIC team has also begun its outreach program, having spenttwo days in late August and early September training Lincoln Countysheriff’s deputies on crisis intervention skills, teaching officershow to recognize and react to those with mental illnesses andeducating them on how to work with the crisis center.

Region 8 claims no mental patients have been held in the LincolnCounty jail since it began operating its crisis teams – so farfulfilling a promise that was, perhaps, the most attractive sellingpoint county supervisors considered when approving theorganization.

Van said 20 people with mental illnesses were seen by Region 8during its first two weeks in August, and 18 of them weresuccessfully treated up front and diverted from the commitmentprocess. Since then, almost all 16 beds at the CIC have beenutilized, he said.

“We’ve been almost full since day one,” Van said. “And about 90percent have been Lincoln County citizens.”

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, who deals directlywith the mental health commitment process, praised Region 8’sabilities over the past two months. He said his office has done 110commitments since Jan. 1; he processed three on Wednesdayalone.

“Our office has been very pleased with our relationship withRegion 8,” Bishop said. “It seems to be working really well. Ithink the future is going to be even better.”

Now that Region 8 is opening its mental health center, moreresources will be available for non-crisis patients.

Region 8 plans to operate the newly renovated, 5,000 square-footoffice for 18 months while it searches for property suitable forthe construction of a planned $4 million permanent centraloffice.

The new office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondaythrough Friday. It can be reached by phone at 601-823-2345. Thesame phone number will forward callers to the 24-hour crisis linewhen dialed after-hours.