Mississippi Mental Health Lawsuit Poses Concerns for Civil Rights

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As a mental-health lawsuit claiming a violation of the civil rights of mentally ill Mississippians moves forward, Joy Hogge has in mind "a young person" who never received the support they needed.

The services available in the state relied too heavily on traditional therapy and not enough on ensuring the person would learn to manage their illness and perform day-to-day functions, like going to school or working a job. The person descended into homelessness, which only compounded their mental health struggles. Today, they sit in jail facing what Hogge calls "really significant charges" and the possibility of a long prison sentence.

"If they had the right services in the beginning of this, they wouldn't have ended up in this situation," she told the Jackson Free Press on Wednesday morning. Hogge, who is the director of Families As Allies, did not identify the person by name or gender.

On Tuesday, the state went to court against the U.S. Department of Justice, which charges that Mississippi is in violation of a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, Olmstead v. L.C., which found that states must ensure the same kinds of protections for mentally ill people as for other disabled people under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"So what that said is that mental-health services should be set up to help them do those things, like help them learn how to work and manage their mental illness at the same time," Hogge said. "And that also means if that's really happening, we shouldn't rely on state hospitals so much."

State Attorneys Call Federal Demands 'Unreasonable'

Although Families as Allies focuses on children's mental health and while the lawsuit is about how the State treats adults, Hogge said her organization supports the Justice Department's argument because "anything that helps adults is going to help kids, and we believe adults should get the

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