Facility Lacks Only Funding

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Some mental health patients are in county jails because there is no other place for them. They need care, but space is not available. However, a new facility in Newton, Miss., is unused because it hasn't been funded.

The Newton facility is a "crisis center," but the necessary $2.4 million annual operating funds have never been provided by the legislature and the building has never had a single patient.

"At any given time we can handle 16 individuals. This is intended to be a treatment facility that people would come in and out. The length of stay should be somewhere in the neighborhood between two weeks to 60 days and either an alternative placement would be found or the treatment would be considered to be on track and they would be returned home at that time, said director Dr. Mark Yeager.

Fully funded, it would have a staff of forty to fifty people, but for now it sits empty.

"It's frustrating. We're in the business of helping people and we people every day that need our help and so it is very frustrating to be in this situation but I want to add it's very frustrating to the legislature too."

As mentally ill patients continue to be placed in county jails, it is also frustrating to people like Dale Higginbotham, the nurse at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility.

"We provide shelter for them, we provide food, we provide their medication, but as far as the rehabilitation that they need, we're not able to provide that," said Higginbotham. "And that's what they need, instead of just sitting there. The only way that I know is to get the community involved and to get the legislators and let them know how important it is that they open up some of these facilities."

Yeager said Rep. Johnny Stringer, chairman of the appropriations committee, has assured him he realizes how important this funding is.

"We are working very close with them and I'm very encouraged by that, even though it is very frustrating to have people that you want to be helping and right now don't have the resources to do that." said Yeager.

The future of the Newton facility will depend on whether those resources are made available.