Recently, Mississippians learned that a mentally ill man in our state has been jailed for five years without being tried for a crime rather than being placed in a mental health facility. No one knows exactly how many mentally ill people are roaming about, endangering themselves or others, receiving no treatment and no medication to help them.
This year, Mississippi has been listed nationally as the number 10 state with the largest cutbacks of funds allocated for mental health. Lawmakers have slashed $8.3 million from the Department of Mental Health budget for the fiscal year, and more than 30 beds serving psychiatric patients and a male chemical dependency program were scheduled for closing. The Chemical Dependency Unit served 429 males in FY15. South Mississippi State Hospital was scheduled to close five psychiatric beds which previously served 80 people per year. Wait times to receive mental health services for out-patients are so long that many in need are not receiving services. Many children and youth are in dire need of out-patient mental health services and receiving none.
Too many times, we have read or heard about an innocent person being injured or murdered by an untreated mentally ill person. And too many times, mentally ill people are incarcerated, where they will receive no treatment to help deter their behavior.
Consider This: For the safety of our citizens and to help those in need, mental health services desperately need to be funded, provided, and made readily available.