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Jackson Co. supervisors agree to fund mental health agency

Jackson County supervisors have voted to release $350,000 to the Singing River Mental Health agency, but not without some conditions.

Supervisors want to review the agency’s annual program audits.

Karl Steinberger, attorney for Singing River Mental Health, said without financial support by the county, the agency was in danger of losing federal money.

The county board revealed during a Dec. 4 meeting that it was withholding money from the agency until the group explained its performance after Hurricane Katrina.

Officials said Singing River Mental Health officials, including executive director Dr. Sherman Blackwell and the agency’s auditor, met with supervisors Monday.

Supervisor Frank Leach said the agency almost disappeared after the storm. Leach said Jim Yancey, director of Jackson County Children’s Coalition, renamed Jackson County Community Coalition, stepped up as the lead mental health agency.

“You’re not meeting the needs of Jackson County,” Leach told the Singing River Mental Health officials.

Supervisor Manly Barton said children need familiarity and the agency hasn’t been providing that.

Blackwell said the agency is working to expand day treatment programs within school districts. He also said new groups have been formed to provide mental health services to young people.

The executive director said immediately after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm, his priority was to get the 30 special needs clients back into their home.

Katrina destroyed a building that had housed Singing River Industries where clients made crab traps, stakes for political signs and dining packets, he said.