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Region 8 marks facility opening

Mental health care access in Lincoln County took a shot upward Monday as elected officials, lawmakers and business leaders gathered to dedicate the newest treatment center of mental health care provider Region 8.

     The approximately $5 million, 29,000 square-foot treatment center represents a significant addition to Brookhaven’s health care capabilities and its economic landscape, said Lincoln County’s Region 8 Commissioner Tillmon Bishop.

     Others touted Region 8’s efforts to increase the quality of care to local patients.

     “We want to eliminate unnecessary institutionalization and incarceration,” said Nena Williams, Region 8 clinical director.

     In some Mississippi counties without proper treatment centers, the sheriff’s departments must house mentally disabled patients in jail.

     District 92 Rep. Becky Currie is proud to say that no longer occurs in Lincoln County. Following Monday’s dedication ceremony, Currie described the calls she used to get from local residents, distressed that their family members were in jail.

     “We shouldn’t jail people for being sick,” Currie said.

     Currie and former area state senator and now Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith said those calls don’t happen anymore.

     “It’s like you turned off a faucet,” Hyde-Smith told Region 8 Executive Director Dave Van.

      Region 8’s mission statement pledges to provide care “in the least restrictive environment possible.”

     Speakers at Monday’s dedication praised not only Van’s efforts to improve mental health care in Lincoln County, but his efforts to improve Region 8 itself.

     Melvin Ray, Region 8 board chairman, said when Van came to Region 8 in 1997, the treatment provider was not sure it could meet payroll for the next month. Under Van’s tenure, the provider has returned to financial strength.

     Region 8 commissioners were thus proud to announce the new treatment center carries no debt and no tax dollars contributed to the construction.

     “It’s paid for as we speak,” Bishop said.

     Bishop also announced that the building will be named after Van.

     “The commissioners wanted to show appreciation in a way that would be a lasting tribute,” Bishop said.

     Van accepted the honor with humor, pointing out people usually only have a building named for them after they retire or die.

     “Hopefully, neither of those is about to happen,” Van said.

     For his part, Van declined to take all the credit for the new treatment facility and identified four groups as instrumental to the new Lincoln County center: Lincoln County supervisors, the Region 8 commissioners, statewide elected officials and the Region 8 staff.

     Region 8 also has centers in Rankin, Madison, Copiah and Simpson counties.

     Lincoln’s center is modeled on the one in Madison County, said Emile Craig, director of administration.

     On the Lincoln County site, several outbuildings sit on the property, accounting for about 6,000 extra square-footage of space, Craig said.

     The building is designed for an Intellectual Developmental Disability program, but that’s a program not in operation right now.

     “Right now there is no funding source for that service, so we’re on hold,” Van said.

     Right now Region 8 serves about 3,000 patients in Lincoln County, but has seen steady growth in the county, adding about 80-100 patients a month, said Van. With the expanded treatment center in operation, Van expects 6,000 to 8,000 Lincoln County patients may eventually be served.

     With the center now open, Van also said Region 8 employment in Lincoln County could rise from about 50 to about 70.