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Mississippi Mental Health Advocates Call For Focus On Kids

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 08 May 2014 07:02pm | comments
Roughly 131-thousand Mississippi kids are currently dealing with a mental health disorder, and children's advocates say it is time to address the problem. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that leaders in the state say untreated mental health issues is hurting the state's future.
Untreated mental health issues are at the root of other problems facing the state such as obesity, teen pregnancy, and high school drop outs according to University of Mississippi psychologist David Elkin.
"What if we could try to help them with those issues and see if those issues got better. So if you could find kids who are depressed and help them with their depression and anxiety and see if it helps with graduation or obesity," Elkin said.
Governor Phil Bryant spoke at the gathering of Children's advocates, health professions and businesses leaders in Jackson to focusing on ways to improve delivery of mental health services to Mississippi's kids. 
He floated the idea of forming what he calls a 'children's cabinet' to coordinate care across the state. 
The incoming head of the Department of Mental Health Diana Mikula says services are available for people who seek them out.
"They are getting treatment. They are getting treatment through Mississippi's public mental health system. Through organizations like private and not for profit organizations. And across the state it is an issue we are addressing," Mikula said.
But some advocates and parents of children with mental health issues insist that the state is not doing enough to help children with mental health problems. 
Nikki Flippins, the mother of two children with mental health illnesses, says the schools have been more interested in passing her children along rather than finding treatments them.
"they kind of put the kids on a convery belt and it doesn't really matter how much they learn. They just continue to move through the grades and then you end up in middle school and a lot of the time that is when its start to act out," Flippins said.
In 20-11 the federal department of justice said the state was violating federal law for relying too much on institutionalizing people and children with mental issues instead of using home and community based care.
The state legislature responded last year by adding 16-million to the Department of Mental Health to address the findings.




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