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Pearl River County may change mental health providers

Pearl River County’s Board of Supervisors is requesting a change to join Region 12 under the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

Mental health services for Region 12 are provided by Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources. Currently, Pearl River County is part of Region 13 and receives mental health services from Gulf Coast Mental Health Services. Those services include the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Gulfport where county residents who are involuntarily committed are sent to an outpatient clinic in Picayune, according to previous coverage. The Board of Supervisors approved the request at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Board will meet Aug. 29 to decide if it will accept the county’s request, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

The Board of Supervisors is requesting services from Pine Belt beginning Oct. 1, said Lumpkin, to give Pine Belt time to set up services in the county. If the county changes regions, state funding for Pearl River County’s mental health services would go to Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources instead of Gulf Coast Mental Health Services, Lumpkin said.

The Board has already advanced $30,000 in funding to Gulf Coast for the months of August and September, according to previous coverage. The state asked the Board to advance six months of funding or become part of a different mental health region at the end of July because Gulf Coast was out of funds, according to previous coverage. Instead, the Board chose to advance two months of funding while the members considered whether to join a different mental health region.

Approximately 700 patients in Picayune utilize Gulf Coast’s services, to which the county pays approximately $200,000 a year, according to previous coverage.

If the county switches regions, Gulf Coast will no longer operate in Pearl River County, Lumpkin said. Instead, Pine Belt would open an office in Picayune and provide the core mental health services required by the state, Lumpkin said.

Pine Belt plans to expand on the mental health services currently provided in Pearl River County and add additional programs, said Lumpkin, although he did not know what those additional services might be.

Lumpkin believes the change will not impact county residents.

“We’re just moving from one mental health region to another one,” Lumpkin said.

The decision to change regions was not solely based on Gulf Coast’s financial concerns, Lumpkin said.

The Chancery Court system is in charge of committing mental health patients, and Pearl River County’s Chancery Court is in the 10th District. All of the other counties in that district, which include Lamar, Perry, Forrest and Marion, receive mental health services through Pine Belt, Lumpkin said. Receiving mental health services from the same provider as the other counties in the 10th Chancery Court District would be easier on that court system, Lumpkin said.

Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman said she believes it would be easier to receive services from the same service provider as the rest of the 10th Chancery Court District.

“Gulf Coast has done a wonderful job,” Bowman said. “We appreciate so much the care that they’ve taken of our citizens, and we understand that this move does not mean that we don’t think Gulf Coast Mental Health is not highly capable of continuing service.”

The Board of Supervisors will hold a regular meeting on Aug. 28 at 9 a.m., said Lumpkin.