Health Care Dilemma

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Meridian attorney Jane Miller has dealt with the issue of treatment for the mentally ill for 16 years.

"It's a person who's a danger to himself, a danger to others, cannot take care of himself," said Miller, describing someone who has been committed to a mental health care facility by a judge. "We don't just routinely send people over to the custody of Sheriff Sollie. We get people who are so acutely psychotic, we just have no choice but not to send them back home or to leave them without some type of 24-7 supervision."

Miller says she's troubled by the system as it exists.

"They need to be under professional treatment and yet there is no bed available for them at a mental hospital," Miller said. "Jail is not the place for these people."

Sheriff Billy Sollie said the law would allow him to place mental patients in a private care facility but the county could not afford it.

Last week Sollie, representatives of East Mississippi State Hospital, Weems Mental Health Center and others met with legislators in Jackson to ask for help.

"They were very polite. They took their time out of their schedule to listen to us, but they basically told us our mission was to come back and educate the public on the plight that we were having and have the public make the demands to care for those patients," Sollie said. "With the current budget that I'm operating under, we have no other alternative but to incarcerate these patients in the county jail."

From this point it appears a solution has to be devised between the general public and their legislators.