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The Union County Board of Supervisors is grappling with what to do about housing mental patients awaiting a place in the state hospital.
Currently they are transported to the Union County Jail, which was not designed and is not adequately staffed to deal with the mentally ill. In short, the current practice is a problem waiting to be a bigger problem.
The Mississippi Legislature is requiring that county holding facilities become certified with the state Department of Mental Health. To become certified would require significant cost and ongoing staffing expense.
And it still would not be an ideal place to park the mentally ill while they work their way up the waiting list for a state hospital bed.
The committal process to get a person into the system also is time consuming, both for the county sheriff’s department and the Union County chancery clerk’s office.
That’s why we think the county should go along with a proposal from the Region IV Mental Health Center in Tupelo to handle all the mental commitment for Union County. The mental health center already has two group homes with 18 beds in Tupelo that meet state standards.
The cost to Union County would be $44,460 a year, which is much lower than the projected cost of fixing and staffing the Union County Jail.
Nine other counties in north Mississippi already have signed up. We think it is a good plan that puts the handling of the mentally ill in the hands of people trained to do that sort of work. Union County should join up.