3Q'S: Ed LeGrand, executive director, State Department of Mental Health

Mental health services offered by the state have been put in jeopardy in recent years because of state budget cuts, according to the Mississippi Board of Mental Health. Ed LeGrand, executive director of the state Department of Mental Health, answered these questions last week about the impact of the recently passed budget on mental health services for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Q: What is the status of funding and services provided by the Department of Mental Health after the budget agreement recently passed by the Mississippi Legislature?
A: We are pleased the Legislature minimally funded the public mental health system by providing $249.3 million for FY2012. While this appears to be an increase in funds, due to the loss of the enhanced federal share of Medicaid, we will actually have to reduce the cost of our existing operations by $7.7 million. However, it is our intention to take this cut out of DMH-operated facilities and services. Our capacity for community-based programs will remain the same.
Our state source funds budget for FY 2008 was $272,742,000; FY 2009 was $278,481,000; FY 2010 was $272,073,000; and FY 2011 was $242,866,000.
Budget cuts over the last few years have directly impacted the public mental health system. We have closed early intervention programs across the state, more than 226 beds at Mississippi State Hospital and a 16-bed dorm at the Mississippi Adolescent Center. We reduced funding provided to nonprofits and redirected funding for building renovation projects and equipment. More than 15,000 individuals have been affected by a reduction or loss of services such as medication purchases, group homes, case management, halfway houses, crisis intervention, physician services and work activity programs.

Q: Earlier the Board of Mental Health talked about the possible closure of some facilities. Are those facilities, especially the North Mississippi State Hospital in Tupelo, safe from closure?
A: The Mississippi Legislature clearly indicated no facility closures in FY12. We will be able to keep all existing services, including North Mississippi State Hospital in Tupelo. The professional staff at NMSH has served nearly 4,000 individuals since it opened in 1999.

Q: State funding for the 15 community mental health centers also has been an issue for your agency. Will the community mental health centers be safe under this funding level?
A: The funding includes $17.2 million to pay the state’s share of Medicaid match for Community Mental Health Centers and we will redirect $2.8 million from other programs to make a total of $20 million, the amount needed. More than 100,000 individuals are served by the CMHCs each year. Minimum funding for CMHCs is extremely important because the centers help prevent individuals from needing lengthy inpatient care and serve patients who are discharged from private and public hospitals to ensure they do not need to return to a hospital for additional lengthy inpatient care.

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