State hospital asked for closure plan

TUPELO – Officials at North Mississippi State Hospital in Tupelo are preparing for a possible closing if the state’s Department of Mental Health doesn’t get the needed funding for the next fiscal year.
The department has asked the hospital and three others in the state to submit contingency closing plans by the end of August.
Developing the plan does not mean that the hospital is fated to close, only that it could shut down if the Legislature doesn’t provide the needed funding for the fiscal year staring July 1, 2011.
In September, the Department of Mental Health will request an additional $44 million from the Legislature. That money will be needed to continue existing services, to replace federal stimulus money that will be not be renewed and to pay for a new Medicaid match requirement.
DHM is expecting to be required to fund about $16 million in additional Medicaid matches for community programs during the current year. The department was cut $2.46 million in general fund dollars and $105,000 in special fund money during the last fiscal year.
“It is definitely a crisis situation,” said Wendy Bailey, public information director of the Department of Mental Health. “We don’t need that funding to increase our services. We need that to stay where we’re at.”
North Mississippi State Hospital Director Paul Callens said that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Legislature will find a way to keep the facility open.
“But at the same time, you can not help but being nervous when asked to develop a plan that not only ends your career, but the careers of over 120 employees who have been established here for well over 11 years now.”
North Mississippi State Hospital served 786 patients during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Since opening in 1999, it has served 6,401 individuals. It serves 18 counties in Mississippi and works with both males and females ages 18 and older.
Patients at the hospital are typically committed through the chancery court system. The hospital has 50 beds and currently has a waiting list of about 40 patients, Callens said.
Were the hospital to close, Callens said, the patients would be discharged back to their communities. Some would be served by community mental health centers and some would be served by county hospitals that have psychiatric units.
“Others will walk the streets and will end up in our jail system, not because they have committed any crime but because with no other place for them to be, they’ll end up in the jail system,” Callens said. “That is what has happened historically.”
The other facilities asked to submit closure plans were South Mississippi State Hospital, Mississippi Adolescent Center and Central Mississippi Residential Center.
The plans entail explaining how the hospital would systematically release patients and employees and shut down equipment, buildings and services, Callens said.
Bailey said those four were singled out because they receive the majority of their funding from general funds, rather than from special funds.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal