Thursday, July 10, 2008
Board discusses treatment facility with state official
By SUE WATSON
Ed LeGrand, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, and consultant Gary Anderson recently met with the Marshall County Board of Supervisors to discuss strategy for getting an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Marshall County.
The board has been working two years with the State Legislature to design the facility and get funding to build and operate it.
The original bond bill to build a crisis center in Holly Springs was modified after supervisors asked for an alcohol and drug facility by supervisors because of the pervasive problem with addiction in the area.
After the Legislature approved $2 million to construct a crisis intervention facility in 2006-07, the board asked Anderson to work to get the bond money shifted to an A&D facility. The bond money barely missed scrapping during the 2007-08 Legislative session while Anderson and LeGrand worked to get the language in the original bond bill changed so an A&D treatment center could be established.
Money to operate the facility was the next order of business, with Anderson and the local delegation searching for a financial stream to operate the facility once built.
LeGrand briefed the board on Mississippi Department of Mental Health (MDMH) operations.
About 10,000 employees work in MDMH, he said, to operate four psychiatric hospitals and five mental retardation centers. The agency is responsible for providing for the mentally ill, the retarded and disabled and for the addicted, he said.
“The biggest problem in this county, the state and the nation is probably alcohol and drugs,” LeGrand said. “We have limited resources for A&D.”
He said peer programs must establish that drugs and alcohol use are socially unacceptable because there is peer pressure in junior highs, high schools, colleges and universities to use alcohol and drugs.
Youth have money and mobility which together provide access to alcohol and drugs, he said.
An attempt in the Legislature to take the $2 million set aside for Marshall County’s facility for other uses failed, but barely, he said.
LeGrand encouraged the county to work with the Region II Mental Health Center to operate the facility year to year, after it is built.
MDMH could give grants to Region II that, in turn, could be used to operate the facility here, he said.
An effort to increase legislative support for a facility in Marshall County is needed.
“It is important to have commitment on the part of the Legislature and Marshall County to fund operations,” LeGrand said. “There are numerous roads to get it accomplished.”
He doesn’t expect the governor to sell the bonds for the facility until there is commitment from the Legislature to provide operating funds. He does not expect it will take much to get the bond bill language changed for construction of an A&D facility.
“I do not think it would pass muster as a mental health crisis center,” he said.
But with cost of materials rising, the Legislature is finding that costs of construction increase dramatically between the time a bond bill is approved and construction actually commences, adding millions to the cost of construction sometimes.
“Every day bonds are not sold, the cost is going up,” he said.
He said the Legislature could allocate money to Region II which can route the operating budget to Marshall County’s A&D facility.
LeGrand said if the Legislature earmarks money for the operation of a facility, it rarely drops funding.
The treatment centers also help develop the economy of an area, he said, a good argument for the centers.
“Very seldom does the Legislature come back and say, now we are too poor,” he said.
He recommended a full-court press to get appropriations to operate the facility and the bond bill language changed for an A&D facility.
“If the two occur, it can happen,” he said. “It is not the best of times, but sometimes great things happen in dire economic times.”
“I know the county cannot fund it,” said supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett. “It will have to come from the Legislature.”
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