Attorney General Jim Hood announced that an additional $ 34,441,643.60 recovered by his office was delivered to the state Treasury today, and he urged the Mississippi Legislature to appropriate about $7 million to the Department of Mental Health. This includes $1,985,461 for the reopening of the Chemical Dependency Unit for men at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield. This would reopen 25 beds which served 336 male patients in FY16, but were closed last year due to budget cuts. The other $5,350,400 would go to fund the state’s Intellectual Disabilities/Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD) Home and Community Based Waiver program.
After an $8.3 million cut to its FY2017 budget, the Department of Mental Health closed two Chemical Dependency Units for men at the Mississippi State Hospital and East Mississippi Hospital. Since then, mid-year budget cuts totaling $3.5 million have further restricted the department’s finances. The women’s unit at Whitfield remains open.
“Many counties have relied on the men’s drug and alcohol facility at Whitfield to treat those committed by court order to stay at Whitfield until they are released. I have received pleas from lawyers for and family members of men committed for drug and alcohol treatment to see if we can reopen the Whitfield unit. These lawyers and family members expressed concern that patients can walk away from local facilities, whereas they were housed in a secure environment on the Whitfield campus. It is amazing to me what a high level of substance abuse treatment the folks provide at Whitfield with little funding. I respectfully request that the Legislature merely appropriate $2 million of the $34 million check I sent them today to reopen the state-run chemical dependency unit for men at Whitfield.”
A mother, who is a nurse, wrote me about her struggle to help her 22-year-old son who is a drug addict. She states in her letter, “He was admitted to a community chemical dependency unit. He stayed 7 days. He was allowed to walk out after a familiar person was there as a speaker and he spiraled into mental breakdown and walked away.” She continued, “He needs to be in a facility on lockdown. The community CDU’s provided are for milder cases and willing participants. There is a need for Mississippi State Hospital Chemical Dependency unit for those unwilling participants. At the present, there is no place to help these guys. My son will end up in a correctional facility without the necessary medical help to become and stay sober.” She concluded by saying, “It is wrong to jail these individuals for their addiction causing behavior without addressing the addiction itself.”
An attorney who works with those seeking help with drug addiction wrote: “The closure of the State Hospital as a treatment option for males is a true tragedy.” He continued, “For the last several years, I have sought commitment to the State Hospital for many people charged with crimes. It is working! Rather than jailing these people, I have placed them where they need to be – a treatment center. Now, Whitfield is closed to treat males in this group. Local mental health centers don’t work because a person so committed can just leave – which they do. In 2015, 847 males were committed to Whitfield – now zero.”
Attorney General Hood stated, “If some Legislators do not care about the families of those addicted to drugs, then they should at least be concerned that the cost to taxpayers of doing nothing is more than the cost of treatment. Many of these patients wind up in county jails with counties having to pay the cost of warehousing them.”
“I also respectfully request that the Legislature appropriate $5,350,400 to the Department of Mental Health to continue to support the 2,515 people who are able to remain in their homes and communities because of the ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver,” Attorney General Hood said.
The ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver program is a Medicaid funded program that allows reimbursement to providers when serving qualified individuals in need of support and treatment in the community.
“The Legislature has been funding this program for several years,” Attorney General Hood said. “Without this funding, services to many enrollees would be reduced, the number of enrollees would be reduced, or a combination of both. This funding will also assist us in defending the state in pending litigation.”
In the last year, Attorney General Hood has delivered two checks totaling $100,158,623.58 in addition to this $34.4 million dollar check today. His office delivered a check in the amount of $66,207,318.37 on Feb. 17, 2016, and a second check for $33,951,305.21 on Oct. 7, 2016. “This amount is enough to cover the cost of the Attorney General’s Office for four years,” Attorney General Hood said. During his tenure, Attorney General Hood has recovered more than $3.3 billion from out of state corporations that have violated Mississippi law.
The majority of the $34.4 million delivered to the Treasury today is from the multistate settlement with Moody’s Corporation, Investors Service and Analytics, Inc. Attorney General Hood and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen led the investigation and litigation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice which culminated in a nearly $864 million settlement for 21 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government in January.