Anyone in Lafayette County, Mississippi who has mental disorders that needs mental attention immediately go to the Lafayette County Detention Center for evaluation before they are allowed to be committed to North Mississippi Medical Center: Behavioral Health.
This is the closest thing to Oxford, and surrounding counties for mental treatment. Every time there is a mental commit that is submitted through the county, the commit has to stay in jail for about two days until there is a free bed at the health center in Tupelo.
“There was one time that it was so crowded, the patient had to wait in the jail for two to three months,” said Lafayette County Chancery Clerk, Sherry Wall. “But we have nowhere else to hold them because we need to keep them in the least restrictive environment where they are not a harm to themselves or others.”
Persons being committed are housed separately from other inmates and go through evaluations to insure they need help. “99 percent of the time, they are repeats,” said Sherry.
This year alone, there have been 58 individuals committed through the Lafayette County Courts and according to the North Mississippi Behavioral website, “the Behavioral Health Center is a 66-bed free-standing facility located on the campus of North Mississippi Medical Center.”
Not only does Lafayette County send their patients to Tupelo, but so do surrounding counties, like Calhoun, Yalobusha, and Pontotoc, which causes overcrowding. In order to help with the overcrowding, Lafayette County Detention Center has been certified to deal with mental patients, so in a case where there is not room in Tupelo, the patients can get the help needed at the Detention Center.
“A prime example of why we hold them in jail, is a few years ago, there was a guy who lived in town with his parents. His parents had him committed to a private facility. He stayed there two weeks, and they sent him home because they said he was fine. He came home, and killed his brother and shot his dad. And that’s why we hold them in jail, but he had never been committed through us,” said Wall.
Once the patients arrive at the detention center, they are examined by a doctor to determine whether or not they need to go to Tupelo for treatment, if they need drug and alcohol treatment, or if they can be released. If the doctor determines that they need medical attention, the people at the Behavioral Center in Tupelo will phone the jail when a bed becomes available. After the police hear from Tupelo, they will notify the patient’s parents or whoever needs to know, to bring fresh clothes and toiletries, and the sheriff will drive them out to Tupelo at around 8:00 the following morning. Once patients arrive in Tupelo, they are treated for about thirty days, depending on the case.
“This is a worst case scenario, last resort kind of situation for the people involved. We know these people are not criminals, and we treat them with sensitivity and respect,” said Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Chief of Police, Ken Winter.
Laura Lindsey Viergever is a journalism student at Ole Miss, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.