In its ongoing attempt to close a $19.7 million budget hole, the Department of Mental Health announced Friday plans to consolidate six of its programs for mental health services.

Under this new plan, Gulfport’s Specialized Treatment Facility will become a satellite program of Mississippi State Hospital. North Mississippi State Hospital, South Mississippi State Hospital, and Central Mississippi Residential Center will become satellite programs of East Mississippi State Hospital in Meridian.

Diana Mikula, executive director of the Department of Mental Health, said the reorganization is part of the agency’s ongoing effort to transition patients from institutional care into the community, while still providing them with services.

“By consolidating and streamlining services at our behavioral health programs for administrative purposes, we will be able to keep acute psychiatric services available in communities throughout Mississippi with our satellite locations,” Mikula said. “Mississippians should have the opportunity to live in the community and be included in their community.”

This announcement follows a similar consolidation in 2016, when the Mississippi Adolescent Center became a satellite program under Boswell Regional Center.

In April, the department announced plans to eliminate 650 positions by the end of fiscal year 2018. Of these, 74 cuts came in the form of layoffs from another consolidation, when East Mississippi State Hospital combined its adolescent psychiatric services program with one at Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.

Central Mississippi Residential Center announced another 72 layoffs after the department transitioned its Footprints Adult Day Services and crisis stabilization units to privately owned Weems Community Health Center.

But the majority of the staffing cuts will be administrative, through attrition, retirements and the elimination of vacant positions, according to Mikula.

“This is a streamlining of backroom operations and will not impact the delivery of services to people in need at these programs,” Mikula said in a press release about the departmental reorganization Friday.

All told the department eliminated 1,361 positions between July 2012 and May 2017, reducing salary expenses by $26.7 million, from $342.1 million to $315.4 million.

In addition, the Board of Mental Health has moved from a monthly meeting schedule to a bi-monthly meeting schedule, in a move the department said “will help lower the overall cost of travel.” Currently, travel expenses account for 0.13 percent of the entire budget for the Department of Mental Health.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.