The state and the federal Department of Justice agreed in separate court filings in U.S. District Court that Dr. Michael Hogan, the court-appointed special master, should be appointed as monitor to ensure the state's compliance with federal requirements on its treatment of the seriously mentally ill.
The state says in its brief that it doesn't consent to having a monitor, maintains its prior objections and that its choice of a monitor was submitted solely due to an order issued by U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves on July 15.
The state also says it still has the right to challenge any final decision in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice over the excessive institutionalization of the seriously mentally ill in state hospitals rather than in community-based care alternatives.
The state also wants the monitor's powers to be limited only to reporting to the court whether it has met the objective criteria in the remedial plan posted by him, with the costs split between the state Department of Mental Health and the DOJ.
These limits mean Dr. Hogan will not be able to conduct investigations, conduct hearings or take evidence.
The DOJ, in its filing also issued on Friday, said that it wants the monitor to be able to review and validate data and information, speak with patients, providers and state officials and provide progress reports every six months.
The DOJ also wants the monitor to have a staff and to be appointed for an initial three-year period that can be renewed by the court. The DOJ also wants the state to pay the monitor's budget.
Dr. Hogan's role would be to ensure the state mental health system is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Once Judge Reeves approves of the choice of a monitor and his duties, he will issue a final judgment in the case.
The original lawsuit by the DOJ, which was filed in 2016, alleges that Mississippi depends too much on segregated state hospital settings versus community-based alternatives.
Judge Reeves in his July 15 order said that Hogan's proposal was “careful and modest” and the improvements could come without a net cost to the state. According to the order, a similar case involving Alabama's mental health system resulted in its budget increasing from $16 million to $86 million (1970s dollars).
The federal government says the state's mental health system violates the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court says individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community under the Americans With Disabilities Act rather than be institutionalized.
The Department of Justice began an investigation in 2011 and issued a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ went into a round of negotiations to come up with a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 filed in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won the first round on September 3, 2019. Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master, Dr. Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.