MS budget cuts reduce Pine Belt mental health programs

MS budget cuts reduce Pine Belt mental health programs

PINE BELT (WDAM) - State budget cuts are causing two Pine Belt mental health hospitals to reduce programs and staff.

"It takes a lot to run a small hospital," said Clint Ashley, director of the South Mississippi State Hospital in Purvis.

Ashley said the hospital has been forced to function with less as the state continues to cut funding for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

Now, the South Mississippi State Hospital is closing five beds next year, which means it will treat fewer patients.

"We turn our beds over approximately every 21 or 22 days, so we anticipate serving about 80 to 100 less patients," Ashley said.

The hospital serves 15 counties in South Mississippi. Ashley said reduced beds will likely mean a longer wait time for patients.

"We serve the entire southern part of Mississippi, which is approximately a fourth of the state of Mississippi, with our 50 beds," Ashley said. "So you can anticipate a longer length of wait to get into our facility. Many of those patients wait in crisis centers. Occasionally, some wait in jail."

Ellisville State School is stopping its early intervention program for children from birth to age 3.

Rinsey McSwain, director of Ellisville State School, said there are currently 128 children enrolled in the program.

"Oh it's hard," McSwain said. "It hurts because I know that we have a lot of families, I have a lot of friends, who have had children touched by this program. I've been around for over 25 years. I've seen what this program has done and is doing."

McSwain said the program lets teachers work with children in their homes.

"They go into those children's natural environment to work with them, work with the families, coach the parents on how to deal with certain things," she said. "(They) offer them the opportunity to find places to get additional assistance."

She seven teachers will also be cut along with the program.

"If funding was available, we would not cut that program," McSwain said. "If I could wave the magic wand, the program would be forever. The program is a great program, but unfortunately the funding is just not there to continue."