Mental health woes continue in the state, with the recent $10 million dollar budget cut to the Department of Mental Health being just the tip of the iceberg.
The need for community-based education programs, specifically dealing with how to manage a mental health crisis is desperately needed, especially for the state’s children with mental illnesses.
“Families are still just getting a phone call,” said Joy Hogge, president of Families as Allies. “They’re just being told they need to discipline their child or something like that, so it is just not working very well.”
Families as Allies is the only statewide organization of its kind in Mississippi. It is run by and for the parents and caregivers of children with mental health challenges.
Hogge said with a lack of community-based treatment programs, children whose behavior escalates during a mental health crisis often end up in the justice system.
“That just starts escalating,” said Hogge. “And then the police get involved, and the police get involved, and the children end up in an inappropriate justice facility.”
Hogge said she knows of a child as young as nine years old being held in an adult jail until officials figured out what to do next.
“Then sometimes, if the child hurts another child in the home, the foster system gets involved,” said Hogge. “And then the parents lose their children and are labeled as neglectful, when really that’s not the case at all.”
Community-based treatment and education for children with mental illness is for the child and anyone who becomes in contact with that child, according to Hogge.
“That may mean another caregiver in the home that is available to help with a crisis,” said Hogge. “Or having someone to train the teacher that will work with that child. Then these children can remain within society, and not be isolated in an institution.”
Hogge referred to the isolation situation as “warehousing” children.
“Then they grow up, and they can contribute to society and their symptoms can be managed, not just the outcomes,” said Hogge.