Diana Mikula, director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

Mississippi will get some help combating mental health disorders and substance abuse in its prisons, thanks to a grant from the federal government.

The state will receive a $647,461 grant to reduce the number of prisoners re-entering the corrections system by helping treat substance use and mental health disorders in a community setting, the Mississippi departments of corrections and mental health announced Friday.

The agencies said the Second Chance Act Reentry Program for Adults with Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Disorders will begin Oct. 1.

“Our state is in dire need of programs that can offer ex-offenders a full continuum of integrated care that will improve their functioning and outcomes when they return to their communities,” state corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher said. “Therefore, when the Department of Mental Health approached me about supporting its efforts to get this grant, I didn’t hesitate.”

A 2010 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs Association, both headquartered in Virginia, found that three times more seriously mentally ill people were in jail than in hospitals. Those findings are bolstered by a study published last month from Treatment Advocacy Center and Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen that involved surveys of jail personnel in 39 states, including Mississippi.

Mississippi corrections officials estimate that 3,194 inmates receive mental health treatment and about 15,000 self-report experience with alcohol and drugs.

Diana Mikula, executive director of the state mental health department, said the program would help the prisoners obtain the services.

“We believe individuals with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders represent a group of people who have been under-identified and may have had difficulties accessing the services they need,” Mikula said in a press release.

The program will focus on 90 people from Hinds County, the state’s most populous county.

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.