Mississippi Facing Legal Action

The state of Mississippi faces a federal lawsuit over the care of its children in mental health treatment.

As reported in an article in the Clarion Ledger, Mental health lawsuit fought

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center Mississippi Youth Justice Project, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and local civil rights attorney Rob McDuff.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Jackson, alleges the state discriminates against mentally ill children by not providing adequate care outside of hospitals and other institutions.

The problem is you’ve got these facilities that are holding juveniles.

“Residential centers and hospitals are only short-term fixes,” said Vanessa Carroll with the Youth Justice Project and lead attorney on the case. “So it does not make sense to invest so much in the care when there are no resources in the community.”

The investment should be made in community resources then, of course. Some of us would question whether any children should be sent to these residential centers and hospitals at all. When the resources exist to provide for such children in their home communities, there is no reason to sent them to a hospital in the first place.

Certainly Mississippi is not the only offending state when it comes to not providing adequate care for children outside of an institutional setting, but hopefully the two groups filing this suit can win their case. If they are able to do so, it will set a positive precedent regarding any other offending state when it comes to future litigation.

Although officials in the state of Mississippi deny the allegations contained in the lawsuit, we know that their denials are denials of fact.

Mental health facilities are no place for children, and if they are not places for children, they should not be used as dumping grounds for children either.

I have seen it before and I will see it again. There is a very real danger that a number of the children kept in such facilities will end up in adult facilities, and facing a lifetime regimen of mental health treatment, when no such action is taken.

Citizens of Mississippi, thank your lucky stars that you have a Southern Poverty Law Center and a Bazelon Center to file a much needed suit for the benefit and protection of children and young people in your state and others.