Advocates want voice in Mississippi mental health system

Published 5:00 pm Sunday, November 22, 2020

(AP) — Mississippi’s new coordinator of mental health accessibility should include advocates for patients and consumers conversations about improving access to services, leaders of several groups say.
Executive directors of the Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities; Disability Rights Mississippi; Families as Allies; and Life of Mississippi wrote an Oct. 28 letter to Liz Welch, director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration. It outlined ways that advocacy groups could help improve mental health services, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.
“Each and every day, we work with people whose lives bear witness to the fact that Mississippi does indeed discriminate against people with mental illness and, as a result, unlawfully segregates them in institutional settings, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the letter said
The leaders wrote that they have knowledge about other states’ community mental health practices that could help Mississippi.
In October, Welch appointed William Rosamond, an attorney for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, as the coordinator of mental health accessibility. Legislators created the new position for someone to evaluate the status of mental health systems and make alterations to some programs.
The advocates’ letter says that when Rosamond did legal work for the department, the system “faced and lost litigation,” which caused a federal judge to rule that Mississippi’s mental health services were inadequate.
Rosamond said he is “very interested” in working with advocacy groups and has already met with one of the signers.
“They’re advocates and represent the consumer,” Rosamond said. “We have to find out if there’s a breakdown in services. They’re a key part of the solution.”
Rosamond said he hopes to schedule events to include leaders of advocacy groups to speak openly about possible solutions for the mental health system.

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