County officials continue efforts to find plan for mental patients

The Union County Supervisors are continuing to try to find an acceptable way to deal with residents of the community suffering from mental illness.

As was reported the past two weeks, the county had an agreement with Region IV Mental Health Services that afforded appropriate and expedient care for Union Countians who had been committed to a facility because they were a danger to themselves or others. That system had worked extremely well in the eyes of county officials because it relieved the county of the need to care for the individuals and resulting liability in exchange for a monthly fee.

But they learned two weeks ago the three-year-old program would be likely discontinued in September due to high expense and lack of funds. Then, this past week, the county abruptly learned the Region IV services were being discontinued immediately.

If a new plan cannot be developed, the county will again have to keep mental patients in the county jail, transport them for evaluation and hearings, provide medical care and other necessities at county expense. The county will also bear all the liability for the patients until a bed can be found for them at the state hospital.

Chancery Clerk Annette Hickey was scheduled to meet with Lifecore Health Group (formerly Region III Mental Health Services) chief executive officer Robert Smith, representatives of Three Rivers Planning and Development District and representatives of other interested counties to continue working on a solution Monday.

Smith did not know enough early Monday to make any guarantees but said he hopes he can offer a way to house the mental patients for a daily, rather than monthly, fee.

Smith was also present at the regular weekly meeting of the board of supervisors to make his annual budget request.

Smith, who has been Region III CEO for the past 10 years, said the name change to Lifecore represented an increase in services offered. The organization has moved into new quarters at the old downtown mall in Tupelo and provides behavioral health care, a pharmacy and, now, primary health care as well.

Lifecore services are free or based on a sliding scale and Smith said they were able to hand out more than $800,000 in medication this past year.

“Forty-three percent of Mississippi physicians refuse Medicaid patients,” he said. His department is trying to help fill that gap with a goal of “keeping people healthy. We are now a one-stop for pharmacy, psychiatric and medical care,” he said.

Lifecore serves Benton, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union counties.

This past year, they had 279 admissions from Union County, served 441 Union County patients and provided 10,105 hours of service to our residents. Their chemical dependency unit has admitted 12 as residents for a total of 407 days with seven more outpatient admissions. All seven schools in Union County have mental health therapists from Lifecore. Union County residents also have access to a mobile clinic that visits Pontotoc.

The Lifecore payroll that affects Union County is $416,092 and they purchase $15,803 worth of goods from local vendors.

Union County board president Danny Jordan commented on the more comprehensive medical services being offered, saying that “it saves a lot of money down the road.”

Smith’s presentation did not include a specific funding request for next year but agencies usually express hope for a small increase but expect the same level of support as the previous year.

In other business supervisors:

  • Approved the 2014-15 budget for the Union County School System as submitted by the school trustees. The budget is approximately $22 million and includes a four-percent increase. The supervisors are required by law to accept the budget as proposed, without change, and determine the amount of tax that will be needed to bring in the requested total.
  • Approved paying for 13 medical examiner’s death investigations for the past month; 12 were for Coroner Pam Boman and one for was deputy Joel Willard.
  • Approved paying Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford allotted fees for holding the June term of circuit court.
  • Approved issuing a $40 manual check to pay for the Veterans’ Service post office box.
  • Approved issuing a manual check to an election holder whose name was overlooked in earlier claims.
  • Approved issuing a manual check to the Union County Historical Society to transfer grant money to the museum for the Down From the Hills music festival and bluegrass championship.
  • Approved a grant application to submit to the Mississippi Emergency Management Authority. The grant, usually awarded annually, pays for half the emergency management director’s salary and half for routine operating supplies and materials.
  • Approved paying Chancery Clerk Annette Hickey for services as Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and also for serving as County Treasurer. These are annual fees.
  • Voted unanimously to re-appoint Jim Owen to represent Union County on the Three Rivers Planning and Development District board.
  • Approved the deletion of two cameras from the inventory for the sheriff’s department.
  • Approved the list of surrendered vehicle tags for the month. State law requires that they be destroyed.


The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors will be at 10 a.m. Monday, July 21.