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The Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi)

Mississippi Faces Suit Over Children's Mental Health


The state of Mississippi is facing a federal lawsuit alleging its failure to provide community-based mental health services to its children is denying them access to care and increasing their odds of being institutionalized.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Mississippi Youth Justice Project , the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and local civil rights attorney Rob McDuff are suing the state in an effort to improve the mental health system for children, according to a news release from the Youth Justice Project.

The state, according to the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Jackson, fails to invest in community-based services and instead pumps the bulk of its resources into ineffective, expensive institutions. In doing so, it violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Medicaid Act, said Vanessa Carroll, staff attorney for the Mississippi Youth Justice Project.

State officials were not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the state fails to meet the needs of children in two fundamental ways.

First, the state discriminates against children with mental illness by separating them from their families and communities and forcing them to cycle through psychiatric institutions that fail to provide adequate services, the news release states. Second, the state fails to provide federally mandated and medically necessary home- and community-based mental health services, according to the news release.

A statement from the Youth Justice Project reads: "Mississippi's mental health system is defined by an over-reliance on institutions where hundreds of children with behavioral and emotional disorders cycle repeatedly through hospitals, emergency rooms, acute care facilities and residential centers. When children leave these facilities, they rarely receive necessary follow-up treatment."

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