Two state agencies will lay off employees before the new fiscal year beginning July 1 to offset budget shortfalls, officials announced Thursday.

The Mississippi State Personnel Board approved reduction-in-force plans for the Department of Mental Health and Public Service Commission. Both state entities cited budget shortfalls as the reasoning for the removal of programs and layoffs of employees.

The Department of Mental Health finalized the first step in a plan to lay off 650 positions by June 2018. At the MSPB board meeting Thursday morning, the board approved the agency’s plan to cut 129 positions at three hospitals and health centers. The layoffs are necessary because of a $14.4 million budget cut going into the upcoming fiscal year.

The Early Intervention Program at North Mississippi Regional Center will be eliminated, according to Ryan Beard, director of Human Capital Core Processes for MSPB. The elimination will cut three positions, he said, in announcing a program elimination that had not previously been disclosed.

DMH spokesperson Adam Moore said the Early Intervention Program is actually under the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health will just cease to provide it moving forward. Those who need access to the program will still be able to participate through other providers in the state, he said.

Beard said the department will also transfer operations of the Crisis Stabilization Unit and Footprints Adult Day Services Program, currently at the Central Mississippi Residential Center, to Weems Community Health Center in Meridian, which will eliminate 53 currently-filled positions.

Sixty-nine people who work at the Bradley A. Sanders Adolescent Complex at East Mississippi State Hospital will lose their jobs once the department eliminates the program, and four vacant positions will not be filled. Patients served by the program will be transferred to Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield.

“A lot of times the board reviews the elimination of pins, or spaces, now this is faces,” said board chair Nick Ardillo. “These are real people with real families with real responsibilities. It’s weighing heavy on my mind, I’ve got to tell you, because we really impact a lot of Mississippians and because the people that are not serviced by mental health we could end up servicing them by corrections. And that is a huge problem.”

The Mississippi Public Service Commission will also eliminate positions. Beard said the agency reported to MSPB that eight positions within the commission are currently vacant or will be by June 30 due to resignations and retirements and will not be filled moving forward due to a $938, 974 budget cut for Fiscal Year 2018. Katherine Collier, executive secretary of the commission, said three additional positions will be eliminated. One court reporter and two senior systems administrators will lose their jobs.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.

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