OUR OPINION: Mental Health Month focuses on importance of programs

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s observance during May of Mental Health Month presses the point that thousands of Mississippians depend on the Department of Mental Health and its wide-ranging services for treatment and therapy involving mental health issues and illnesses that baffle, stress and sadden many individuals and families.
This year the lack of resolution about Mississippi’s Medicaid program, a major funding source for many of the department’s programs and patients, adds uncertainty to the state’s new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The total mental health budget is more than $376 million, but most of that funding is from federal sources – about $5 in federal funds for every $1 the state spends.
Hundreds of employees and thousands of patients of all ages and situations depend on the reliability of Medicaid and other special funds to make that budget and provide the services and treatment that keep people well.
Northeast Mississippi has more mental health programs and facilities than most people know because the profile is low for every level of service. Like other medical issues, mental health is an intensely private and personal issue.
More and more mental health care is community, out-patient based, but Tupelo also is home to one of the state’s in-patient hospitals, the place patients need to go when situations become acute.
As Community Relations Director Debbie Hall explained, the hospital’s goal is to get patients well enough to resume a normal life and not remain indefinitely hospitalized.
The hospital cannot receive Medicaid funding, but it receives Medicare reimbursement, a small amount of private pay, and writes off large percentages of many bills.
In the department’s system many other services depend heavily on Medicaid reimbursement, the program for poor and qualified elderly patients and children, including those with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The department also provides substance abuse treatment and counseling, care for Alzheimer’s patients, treatment programs for children and many other categories of disorders. Almost everyone knows someone who has used Mississippi’s mental health care and treatment system
May as Mental Health Month was started 64 years ago by the national organization Mental Health America to raise awareness of mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for every person.