Mental Health Agency Braces for Cuts

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health is preparing for the strong possibility that more state funding cuts are on the way.

Gov. Haley Barbour told state agencies to look for places to tighten the budget.

As one of nine board members for department, Rick Barry of Meridian said he knows exactly what more budget cuts will mean for the state's largest agency.

"I think it just means we are going to be lean and mean," said Barry. "At some point there might be a hiring freeze, except for essential services."

The departments monthly meeting was held at East Mississippi State Hospital and much of the discussion focused on maintaining the quality of care with the possibility of less funding.

Barry says the state's mental health problems aren't getting better any time soon. In fact he says these cuts are coming at a time with the department actually needs to expand.

"We can't service all the needs we have at present. Obviously we want to be lean and mean but it is tough to make these cuts," Barry said.

One of the areas Barry specifically mentioned is the state's alcohol and drug treatment programs. He says the number of Mississippians needing help is increasing at a fast rate.

"People will tell you the alcohol drug problem in the state is only getting worse and not getting better," said Barry. "We service those needs and it's crowded, so if you cut back, you have to look at cutting services."

The governor has asked all agency heads to turn in a list of all services provided along with the amount of funds used for administrative purposes.

That information is due in the governor's office by Oct. 23. And once it's compiled, state leaders have a difficult task ahead of them.


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