Currently Mississippi’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the United States Department of Justice are engaged in a huge civil lawsuit over mental health policy in our state. DMH has for too long relied on mass institutionalization rather than decentralized community-based treatment plans. Effective crisis response teams are one of the key aspects of this lawsuit, with the feds pushing our state to do more. After losing yet again, Mississippi is appealing.
The irony is that Mississippi could actually save tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars annually, by complying with the federal lawsuit. The Mississippi Department of Mental Health has a budget of about $600 million a year. It employs thousands of people, more than any other state agency. Most of these employees work for six large statewide and regional mental health institutions.
The federal lawsuit, brought by the U. S. Department of Justice, seeks to move treatment for mental illness from large facilities to community-based facilities. This treatment has proven to be far more effective and humane for mentally ill people. Treating locally leads to quick recoveries and reduces stress to mentally ill individuals. Institutionalization far too often leads to a “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality that leads to a lifetime of institutionalization which is expensive to the state and destructive to the individuals. Even more, locally-based treatment can be funded through Medicaid and other federal programs, shifting the cost from the state to the feds. This is good for Mississippi taxpayers.
Community-based mental health treatment is better for patients and taxpayers. So why is the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office appealing this lawsuit? Why doesn’t the Department of Mental Health get with the program and shift resources away from institutionalization and toward community-based treatment?
— Wyatt Emmerich, Northside Sun
Be sure pills for COVID are safe
As remarkable as the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines has been, drug makers and those who regulate them need to be careful to not fall victim to hubris.
The race to create effective vaccines has been replaced by a race to create effective treatments for those who contract the virus. These developments are encouraging, but they should be approached cautiously.
Merck, for example, has developed a pill that appears to be somewhat effective in treating COVID-19’s worst complications. There are some risks, however, the biggest being that the pill in rare cases could cause birth defects and possibly spur more violent strains of the virus.
Until those possibilities are ruled out, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be leery about approving the drug.
Almost all medicines have side effects. When the side effects are less dangerous than the disease, it’s a tradeoff worth making. At this point, there’s not enough information on the Merck pill to tell.
— Tim Kalich, The Greenwood Commonwealth