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A Message from DMH Executive Director Diana Mikula
January 25, 2016
Over the past several years, Mississippi has had great success in expanding the availability of community-based mental health services throughout the state. This has been thanks to the support of the Mississippi Legislature, which in Fiscal Year 2014 granted the Department of Mental Health (DMH) a $10 million appropriation dedicated for the expansion of community services. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Legislature continued to fund that same appropriation along with an additional $6.1 million. This year, Fiscal Year 2016, the Legislature continued to fund that same amount of $16.1 million.
Of course, these programs would not be possible if not for the hard work and dedication of the employees who have been an essential part of this expansion. I would like to share some of their successes with you, as well as what some of our priorities will be in this year’s legislative session.
The funding granted by the Legislature and the commitment of employees in our public mental health system – composed of DMH programs, Community Mental Health Centers and DMH Certified Providers – lets the state offer an array of services that allows people to remain in their homes and communities while still getting the help they need. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be working with all of our DMH employees and our partners in the community who are working to bring these services to those in need.
The services include Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) Teams, which are often referred to as hospitals without walls. They bring a multidisciplinary team together to treat people in their own homes and communities, helping those who have experienced difficulty remaining in recovery from mental illness while outside of an inpatient setting. There are now eight PACT teams in Mississippi.
Mobile Crisis Response Teams are now available in each of the 14 Community Mental Health Centers in Mississippi. These teams provide community-based crisis services that deliver behavioral health assessments and stabilization at the location of the person who is experiencing the crisis. In FY 2015, the teams made 19,660 total contacts, 9,701 of which were face-to-face interactions, and 929 interactions in conjunction with law enforcement.
For people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, the ID/DD Waiver has been increased with an additional 844 slots since 2012. The ID/DD Waiver provides personalized supports that allow people to live successfully in their homes, providing people with meaningful activities such as supported employment, supervised living and occupational, physical, speech or language therapy. At the end of FY15, there were 2,296 people receiving services through the ID/DD Waiver.
In the 2016 Legislative Session, DMH will also request realignment in the salaries of our Direct Care staff. These employees are the frontline staff members who assist and support the people in our programs every day. They have extensive training to develop their behavior management and crisis intervention skills. They carry a significant responsibility in maintaining a safe and therapeutic environment that facilitates recovery and resiliency.
Despite that, the current start salary for a Direct Care Worker Trainee is only $15,898 a year. Once they move past the trainee status, their salary is $17,408. While these employees are compassionate professionals who find great satisfaction in their work, many simply cannot support themselves and their families on those salaries. The vast majority work at least two jobs, and the State Personnel Board tells us that these positions carry the highest rates of turnover in our Mississippi State government. We want to continue to be able to employ people with exemplary skills and dedication, and we will ask the Legislature for a realignment of at least $2,300 a year in their salaries to allow us to do that.
The one thing all people living with a mental illness or an intellectual/developmental disability have in common is that they deserve the best services and supports we can give them. Our expansion of community-based services ensures we have a continuum of care. I know that by working together, we can all help create a better tomorrow for all Mississippians, and I would like to thank all of you who come to work each and every day to do just that.