In a recent filing, the state Department of Mental Health is asking the court to allow it to omit payment for some of the court-appointed monitor’s costs.
The filing before U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves from November 22 says the state shouldn’t have to pay for the costs of Dr. Michael Hogan, the court-appointed monitor, when it comes to parts of Reeves’ order that was stayed in October.
The filing says that the U.S. Department of Justice’s position that a monitor-led review is a critical aspect and core function for the monitor is new and that DOJ attorneys never mentioned this review during trial, its proposed finding of fact and conclusions of law or its proposed remedial plan. Attorneys for the state say that the only mention of the clinical review in the proposed DOJ remedial plan is for the state, not the monitor.
The state also quoted from testimony from Hogan where he said that the monitor wouldn’t be charged with assessing the state’s performance independently, but serving as an independent reviewer of the state’s own data. Attorneys for the state say that extensive bureaucracy of monitoring suggested by the DOJ shouldn’t be allowed to impact the delivery of core services of the MSDMH.
The monitor’s proposed budget includes $25,000 to Hogan to establish a cash reserve. The state says Reeves should order it to make the payment as requested by the monitor. The state also says the court should allow the state to object to any of the monitor’s invoices and to order the monitor not to incur costs from the parts of the order that are stayed.
The stay was issued as the state appeals Reeves' September 7 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
The order covers several components of Reeves’ ruling, including:
- Delaying implementation of the requirement for Peer Support Services at county mental health centers statewide in fiscal 2022 (which began on July 1). Funding for this change wasn't approved by the Legislature, according to the brief filed by the state in support of a stay.
- The mandate that the state fund 250 CHOICE housing vouchers for fiscal 2022 and 250 more in fiscal 2023 and sustain funding for those services. Those services would've cost $2 million each fiscal year until after 2023, when the requirement for additional vouchers will double.
- The clinical review process of 100 to 150 patients annually is another mandate that will be paused by the stay. The state says it would have to restructure its system by designing a clinical review process that doesn't exist and will cost additional tax dollars.
- The action plan that the state must propose to the court within 120 days.
The federal government has successfully argued that 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 commenced an investigation in 2011 and sent a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ attempted to negotiate a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won on September 3, 2019 in a bench trial conducted by Reeves. Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master, Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.