Seeking Mental Health Care

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Speaking to Lauderdale County supervisors recently, Sheriff Billy Sollie updated the board on the status of some occupants of the county jail.

"We do have six patients in our jail. They are not inmates. They are patients," Sollie said.

In actuality, they are mental patients ordered to a state hospital by a judge. There is no room at those hospitals, but 22 miles away from Meridian sits a $1.5 million mental crisis facility built over a year ago but never operationally funded by the legislature or used.

Newscenter 11 talked with Dr. Mark Yeager, director of Central Mississippi Residential Center.

"The intent of this facility is to provide a crisis intervention facility for persons with mental illness. It would provide a treatment facility for persons who have been committed through the court system and would provide the treatment immediately as opposed to them having to go to jail," said Yeager.

Dr. Yeager said jail is the wrong place for those people.

"It would be comparable to sending a person with cancer to jail because there's no treatment program for them. Mental illness is that," said Yeager. "It is an illness. It's not a crime and to send a person with mental illness to jail is not the correct place for placement."

Yeager said an answer to the situation would be at hand if the necessary $2.4 million funding could be found.

"Not only would this facility relieve some of the problems that he has, it would also probably reduce the waiting list at the state psychiatric hospitals that I've also mentioned earlier," said Yeager, referring to Sheriff Sollie.