Mental Health Mississippi

In this 2019 photo, Patrick Holkins, a trial attorney at U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, right and a unidentified member of the government's legal team, exit the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss. after closing arguments were presented about whether Mississippi's mental health system breaks the law by unnecessarily confining people. Judge Carlton Reeves ultimately ruled that the state is violating federal law by forcing people into hospital stays that could be avoided. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

TUPELO • Bill Rosamond, the state’s new coordinator for mental health accessibility, believes the best way to improve mental healthcare services in Mississippi is to ensure that Mississippians do not have to travel to a state-run hospital or institution to receive quality mental healthcare.

Rosamond will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the state’s mental health system and determine if certain mental health services in the state are inadequate. He has broad powers to potentially reshape the landscape of Mississippi’s mental health services.

He can review financial statements of providers, move a county into a different community mental health region and alter the structure of a certain service.

“The hope is that the same services that are provided at the hospital can be provided in the community to the great majority of patients,” Rosamond told the Daily Journal. “We have to make sure those services are in place and operate to capacity and to fidelity.”

Rosamond previously worked as a special assistant attorney general, where he represented the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. He was the sole attorney in the mental health division of the attorney general’s office, which is where he has worked since 2015.

Before working in the mental health division, he was a special assistant attorney general in the human services division from 2010 to 2015. Before working in the attorney general’s office, he worked at a private law firm in Ridgeland.

Rosamond’s appointment comes at a time when the state is in the process of complying with a court-ordered mandate to bring mental health services into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In September 2019, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled that the state’s mental health system was in violation of federal law because there were inadequate resources in Mississippi to adequately treat people with mental illnesses.

Since Rosamond represented the state mental health department while at the attorney general’s office, he was heavily involved in the litigation and has extensive knowledge of Reeves’ findings. Despite his insider knowledge, Rosamond believes that he can still perform an objective analysis of the state’s mental health system.

“The state’s mental health system and the mental health system throughout the country is very complex,” Rosamond said. “It would be very unfortunate to not have someone who did not have that knowledge.”

Rosamond said that he will look at children’s mental health services, mental health treatment in state jails, and all aspects of the state’s mental health system, but community mental health services would be a large component of his analysis.

Although Rosamond would have the power to determine that a certain community mental health center is not providing adequate resources to patients, he believes that the majority of community centers do have the right tools and services, but the next step is determine if the services are effective.

“The services are there and we have to determine the degree of effectiveness of those services right now,” Rosamond said. “If they are not effective, what type of plan can the regional mental health commission and the department of mental health – what type of plan can they offer to fix whatever part of the system is not operating the way it should?”

State lawmakers created the coordinator position this year to improve the quality of mental health in the state. State Sen. Hob Bryan, a Democrat from Amory, authored the legislation that created the coordinator position and told the Daily Journal that he believes Rosamond is qualified for this position.

Bryan, who is the chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said he hoped that Rosamond’s findings will improve the quality of mental health care that citizens receive and indirectly resolve some issues the state is dealing with in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

Rosamond will continue to be an employee of the finance and administration department and work independently from the department of mental health.

Email: taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @TaylorVanceDJ

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