Video: Mental Health Affects Many People and Agencies
WEBSTER, LOWNDES, and, CLAY COUNTIES, (Miss.) – Local deputies and police officers often deal with residents who have mental illnesses.
There is more awareness now about mental health challenges, meaning more people are diagnosed.
At the same time, professionals in this field tell us the state mental health budget is smaller.
Mental health cases involve the person with the illness, their families, the court, and the sheriff’s department.
Getting someone committed is a long process and isn’t cheap either.
Clay County Chancery Clerk Amy Berry works as a front-line defense for families whose loved ones are in need of mental health treatment.
She helps families with the court process and works around 90 to 100 mental health cases a year.
Berry says there’s more mentally ill who need to be helped, than there are open beds at state facilities.
“It’s not over once they finally get adjudicated because the wait time for a bed is typically three to four weeks at the state hospital, so you know, it’s a long drawn out process for the family.”
Training on how to deal with mental health patients is also limited for law enforcement, but it hits home for Webster County Investigator Landon Griffin because he has a brother with mental illness.
“You have a different sense of the situation if you’re there and you’ve never had to deal with it before. It’s brought a lot of insight when dealing with this job when you have to deal with it throughout the years that the families had to deal with it, especially our family.”
Lowndes County Chief Deputy Marc Miley says state cuts to the mental health budget hurt everyone and says more money could help open more beds, bring in more doctors, and provide more training.
“It’s not just a one thing, go in, let’s give them a pill and put them back on the street because if they come back out to the street without true help, who’s going to make them take their medicine if they don’t want to take it. There’s got to be some help available somehow, somewhere, through the state, federal funding.”
Finding money for treatment is a major goal, but it also strains local budgets, even down to the cost of taking patients to get help.
“Some months can be really hard, especially for small departments like ourselves and there’s multiple ones across the state that face the same thing. We have to take actually a deputy off the road to handle those transport needs, and you know, a lot of times these state facilities are in Jackson, or could be in Olive Branch,” says Webster County Chief Deputy Jeff Mann.