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Federal appeals court reverses ruling on mental health care in Mississippi

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A federal appeals court has overturned a ruling that found Mississippi too reliant on institutionalizing residents with mental health conditions, rather than providing care in their communities.

Judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the federal government failed to prove that the state discriminated against people with mental health conditions and that a remedial order by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves that sought to make changes in the state’s mental health system “vastly exceeded the scope of claimed liability.”

Attorney General Lynn Fitch issued the following statement after the decision was made in the case of United States v. Mississippi.

We are pleased that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the lower court’s ruling that gave the federal government the ability to dictate the way Mississippi provides mental healthcare to its citizens. As the court noted in its opinion, the “district court’s sweeping injunction is ‘intrusive and unworkable,’ and requires far more than what might have been required to comply with” federal law.

For too long, federal agencies have used the threat of legal action based on “novel theories of liability,” like those that started this case, to coerce Mississippi and other states into adopting their preferred policies and budget priorities. This opinion is a good reminder to Washington that the people have the right to speak through their state-elected leaders to set their own priorities.

State Rep. Sam Creekmore, R-New Albany, said earlier this week that mental health is still a priority for lawmakers as the shortage of social workers is evident.

“We’re down to 1,200 employees in mental health in Mississippi,” Creekmore said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “There was an example where somebody went to Taco Bell because they could make more money. We’re working on that. We’ve increased salaries.”

Creekmore pointed to a new law that went into effect on July 1 aimed at addressing the issue.

“This bill helped create mental health first aid training that every law enforcement officer will receive,” Creekmore explained. “Crisis intervention training for each law enforcement agency is included. It also provided for mental health liaisons for communities.”

So far, 50 of those liaisons have been added across the Magnolia State.

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