Find quick resolution to impasse

Published 9:28 pm Saturday, January 2, 2016

In yet another example of the idiocy of government, an agreement to improve mental health care for children broke down largely because the state didn’t want a federal judge to oversee its implementation.

That’s according to an Associated Press story based on a transcript of what lawyers for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and the U.S. Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.

A 2010 lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center claims Mississippi illegally sends mentally ill children to institutions instead of caring for them at home, violating the Medicaid Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal officials got involved, issuing a report four years ago accusing the state of widespread violations, the AP reported.

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The transcript, obtained by The Associated Press, shows lawyers told Wingate on Dec. 17 that an agreement had largely been reached, but that talks soured on court oversight. The state wants a private settlement, which means the plaintiffs could have to sue again if they’re unhappy with Mississippi’s remedies.

“Children in the state have been waiting for far too long for services in the community and are currently in institutions unnecessarily as a result,” said Justice Department lawyer Deena Fox, explaining to Wingate why the department doesn’t think further settlement negotiations are fruitful.

Harold Pizzetta, the lawyer handling the case for the state, blamed the breakdown on the Justice Department, according to the AP. He said Hood sent a settlement offer to Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Gupta rejected it, declaring an impasse.

“They walked away from the table, not us,” Pizzetta said.

When it comes to children, especially mentally ill children,  government officials should put their egos aside and do what’s best and what’s right. Although settlement talks will continue, a speedy remedy to the problem is in the best interest of the state’s children. Anything less is a disservice to a vulnerable group.