Mississippi Senate Press Secretary Arnold Lindsay, right, receives a resolution from a senator at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/Owner – thegazebogazette@gmail.com or hdawkins@supertalk.fm

Mental health is a priority for everyone in the Magnolia State, not just people that can financially look for a solution.

According to the 988 Study Commission Report from the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, 431,000 adults in Mississippi have a mental health condition and 120,000 adults have a serious mental illness.

The report provides an emphasis that mental health impacts every single Mississippian. Mental illness impacts our family, friends, neighbors, church members, and more. It does not discriminate. So, the purpose of this column is to suggest potential solutions, not discuss the obvious.

One prime example came in 2019, when the Harrison County Board of Supervisors (the second-largest county in the state) contracted with the Pine Belt Mental Healthcare as a region, along with Hancock and Stone counties, because of poor finances and resources provided at the mental health center in Gulfport. It has been reported the CSU in Pine Belt has denied a few court-ordered indigent residents due to lack of beds and health reasons.

In November 2021, the Supervisors authorized execution of service agreements with Oceans Behavioral Hospital and Gulfport Behavioral Health System unanimously, for the treatment and housing of indigent county residents if Pine Belt Mental Healthcare was not available.

Therefore, providing beds and facilities for individuals ruled by local hospitals as indigents, would not be sent to a local prison or released from care. Although this was helpful, these facilities have quickly tightened up and need financial help to survive.

One of the passionate leaders on this issue is Representative Kevin Felsher (R- Biloxi) who has been attempting to establish a mental health diversion center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

This facility would serve as a “single point of entry” for law enforcement to deliver residents with mental health issues instead of sending them to prison.

What Representative Felsher acknowledges through legislation he has worked on is that these locations need to be a stepping-stone in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the fight for mental health comes at the caboose towards budget and appropriation concerns. Education, Medicaid expansion, reapportioning judicial districts, and more economic development issues raise concern because it is important that the Magnolia State has a way of providing revenue, but having a healthy plus competent society should be the goal for all public servants.

Mississippi should not be a state that’s last in all the important categories while not producing minor returns. More mental health care facilities throughout the state can be a great in- vestment, one where the pros outweigh the cons.