Over the past several years, Mississippi has diligently worked to improve crisis services in the community for individuals with mental illness. With the increase in emergency room use by people with mental illness occurring across the country, it’s important for Mississippi hospitals to understand what services are available.
Mississippi currently has nine Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs) throughout the state – Corinth, Laurel, Batesville, Newton, Cleveland, Grenada, Brookhaven, Gulfport, and Tupelo. In 2010, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) transferred the operation of the CSUs to the Community Mental Health Centers. This transition removed the requirement that individuals must be court committed prior to admission to the CSUs. An individual can now receive services before they decompensate to the point of meeting commitment criteria.
“It is critical for people to receive treatment before they become so acutely ill that hospitalization is required,” said Ed LeGrand, DMH Executive Director. “Partnering with the community mental health system has encouraged "seamless" services to take place - a service element which has been lacking in our state.”
In addition to the CSUs, DMH has been working with the Department of Public Safety and police departments to establish Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs). A CIT is a community partnership of law enforcement, health care and mental health providers, mental health consumers and their families. The goal is to help individuals with a mental illness access medical treatment rather than place them in the criminal justice system due to illness-related behaviors.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department completed their CIT training in 2013 and has utilized that training to help individuals who are facing a mental health crisis.
“Putting a person with a mental illness or a person having a mental health crisis in jail is not helping matters,” said Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. “There is a lot that can be done to defuse a situation and keep things under control, if an officer knows what to do. The training not only focuses on identifying individuals in a mental health crisis, but strategies to de-escalate situations where before, perhaps, officers would have been quicker to act as opposed to talk.”
In 2010, the Mississippi Legislature created a law that allows properly-trained law enforcement to seek help on behalf of a person they believe to have a mental illness. The trained officers can evaluate a situation to determine whether it is a mental health situation. The training prepares them to better handle what is happening and utilize the services of mental health specialists on a short-term basis rather than placing an individual in jail. The law also amended the 72-hour hold law, allowing treatment professionals more flexibility when holding someone without a court order.
“Officers that are properly trained and have received a CIT certification can take a person that they believe is a harm to themselves or others and bring them to the Crisis Stabilization Unit for evaluation to make a determination whether they need to be committed through the court system, or whether they can be stabilized and released,” said Calhoun.
“It is our hope that CIT will spread across Mississippi,” said Calhoun. “We have told everybody that will listen, that CIT works.”
If you have questions about the Crisis Stabilization Units, contact Andrew Day, DMH Director of the Division of Crisis Response at 601-359-1288. If you are interested in establishing a CIT in your community, contact Brent Hurley, DMH Division of Crisis Response, at 601-359-1288.
If you or someone you know is in need of services and supports, call the DMH’s 24 hour-a-day, 7 days a week at 1-877-210-8513 or visit www.dmh.ms.gov.