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Board approves advance of $30,000 to Gulf Coast Mental Health Services

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to advance roughly $30,000 funding for August and September to Gulf Coast Mental Health Services during a special Board Meeting Monday.

During those two months the Board will determine whether the county wants to become part of a different region under the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, or if it wants to continue receiving services from Gulf Coast Mental Health Services. Representatives with Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources in Region 12 are willing to discuss providing mental healthcare services to Pearl River County, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

Pearl River County is part of Region 13 and receives mental health services from Gulf Coast Mental Health Services. These services include the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Gulfport county residents who are involuntarily committed are sent and an outpatient clinic in Picayune, said Bonnie Hodge, who represents Pearl River County on the Board of Commissioners for Gulf Coast Mental Health Services.

Gulf Coast notified the county on July 17 that it would no longer be able to accept court committed patients at the CSU beginning August 1, and would be ending its mental health services in Region 13 on August 11.

Gulf Coast brought in a new CEO and CFO, and underwent significant staffing changes, Lumpkin said, and as a result the business was not billing properly and had been relying on $2.5 million left over from a disaster fund from Hurricane Katrina to cover operating expenses, Lumpkin said. The cost to operate Gulf Coast Mental Health Services is approximately $1 million a month, Lumpkin said.

Now, Gulf Coast is out of funds, and the state has issued an ultimatum to the counties in Region 13, Lumpkin said.

The state sent a letter to Pearl River County on July 19 asking the county to decide if they want to become part of a different region for mental health care services or if the county would be willing to advance Gulf Coast six months of funding, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

The other three counties in Region 13 faced the same choice. The Board of Supervisors in Stone County and Hancock County passed resolutions and letters of intent to resurrect Gulf Coast as the mental health provider for Region 13.

The state is requiring Gulf Coast to replace their CEO and CFO, Lumpkin said. The state is willing to advance Gulf Coast $1.2 million. If all four counties had advanced six months of funding, it would be approximately $1.75 million, Lumpkin said.

The state and county funds combined would allow Gulf Coast to operate for approximately three months, Lumpkin said. Lumpkin said he does not see how Gulf Coast could come up with the funds it would need to operate for another three months by billing patients, which is why he recommended only advancing funding for two months.

Gulf Coast has been in operation for approximately 30 years, Hodge said, and this is the first time it has been in a crisis, although she would not classify the business as profitable. Changes in how grants are distributed created a cash flow problem, before the changes in administration and management, said Hodge.

Lumpkin said he believes Pearl River County’s decision to advance two months of funding while considering changing regions will protect mental health patients from a gap in coverage.

Hodge said Gulf Coast has no plan to close its doors.

Pearl River County pays Gulf Coast about $200,00 a year for mental health services, Lumpkin said.

Approximately 700 patients in Picayune utilize Gulf Coast’s services, Lumpkin said. That number is down from 1,000 people, in part because Gulf Coast did not have enough funding to provide services to the other 300 people in Picayune, Lumpkin said.

Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources is in the 10th Chancery Court District, as is Pearl River County, Lumpkin said. The rest of Region 13 is in the Eighth Chancery Court District. Obtaining mental health services for the county from a provider in the same Chancery Court District might make the process of finding healthcare services smoother for residents who are involuntarily committed, Lumpkin said.