The federal government wants an independent monitor to ensure the Mississippi Department of Mental Health continues to transition to a community-based treatment program for the seriously mentally ill.
In a court filing, attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division argue that the state also needs more housing than suggested in the remedial plan submitted by the court-appointed special master Dr. Michael Hogan on June 3.
In the filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi before U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves, the federal government also argued that the two of the community services suggested by Hogan in his plan are unproven and evidence of them wasn't presented during the after a four-week bench trial conducted by Reeves.
These two services — Intensive Community Outreach and Recovery Teams and employment services through the state Department of Rehabilitation Services — would replace Program of Assertive Community Treatment teams and Individual Placement Support for the employment of the serious mentally ill. The federal government says the while the state should have flexibility in how in meets the federal mandate toward enhancing community-based care while reducing the number of psychiatric hospitalizations, it should do so with evidence-supported services such as the PACT teams and IPS.
The DOJ attorneys also said that Hogan's solution to allow the state to develop tools to assess whether providers are compliant with the standards wouldn't provide any oversight into their efficacy.
The special master's recommendation of expanding the state's subsidized housing for the seriously mentally ill over the next two years was insufficient, according to the DOJ. They want 750 people served annually and said that figure is supported by estimates from state officials and testifying experts.
The lawsuit by the DOJ, 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 AmericansWith 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. Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master, Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.