In a filing in federal court, the state argues that the some of the recommendations of the special master's plan will be too costly and that the court needs to provide specific conditions for the five-year legal battle over the state's mental health system to end.
Attorneys for the state made the filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi before U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves in response to Dr. Michael Hogan, the special master appointed by the court to help draft a remedial plan.
Hogan's plan says the state should implement plan to provide peer support services at the county mental health clinics statewide by fiscal 2022, something that the state argues doesn't have a standardized method of providing support, that 90 percent of adults with serious mental illness don't use them and the proportion who did got little use from them. The state also argues that the evidence at trial reveals that peer support is the least effective service in preventing hospitalization.
The state also disputes the need for post-trial clinical review process to assess those receiving treatment at local clinics or the state's psychiatric hospitals and the need for the court to appoint a monitor to ensure its compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
As far as housing for the seriously mentally ill, the state argues that the expansion recommended by the special master of 250 additional vouchers (at $8,000 per voucher) in fiscal 2022 and an additional 250 in fiscal 2023 would add up to $4 million in additional spending annually. Attorneys for the state argue that represents a concern over federalism since the money might have be taken from other programs.
The state says in its filing that the remedial plan doesn't provide a clear and specific path to terminating the court's supervision and that not having that specificity amounts to a formula for a perpetual or near-perpetual order with no escape.
The lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, which was filed in 2016, alleges that Mississippi depends too much on segregated state hospital settings and not enough community-based alternatives, which can provide an alternative to hospitalization for many with serious mental illnesses.
The federal government says the state's mental health system violates the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court says individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community under the Americans With Disabilities Act rather than be institutionalized.
The Department of Justice began an investigation in 2011 and issued a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ went into a round of negotiations to come up with a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 filed in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won the first round on September 3, 2019 after a four-week bench trial conducted by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves. He ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master to help the court draft a remedial plan.