AG: Lawmakers should use new settlement money for mental health

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Legal settlements reached by Attorney General Jim Hood’s office added an additional $34.4 million to the Treasury, and Hood is asking the Legislature to appropriate some of it to the Department of Mental Health, his office announced Thursday.

The majority of the $34.4 million came from the multistate settlement with Moody’s Corporation, Investors Service and Analytics, Inc.

Hood is urging the Legislature to send $7 million to the Department of Mental Health for the reopening of the Chemical Dependency Unit for men at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield and to fund the state’s Intellectual Disabilities/Developmental Disabilities Home and Community Based Waiver Program, a Medicaid funded program that allows reimbursement to providers serving individuals in the community.

Budget cuts forced the Department of Mental Health to close the unit at Whitfield and another at East Mississippi Hospital. The women’s unit at Whitfield remains open.

“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,” Hood said of the chemical dependency units’ closure. “Many of these patients wind up in county jails with counties having to pay the cost of warehousing them.”

Hood also noted that without funding for the ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver program, services would be reduced.

“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,” Hood continued.

The announcement came ahead of conference weekend at the Legislature, where lawmakers will hammer out details of the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.