In the Mississippi Delta Project’s newest initiative, students will identify the most-pressing mental health and substance abuse related issues that Mississippi is currently facing. The central goal of the mental health and substance abuse team is to assist Southern Institute for Mental Health Advocacy, Research and Training (SMHART) and other groups with developing policy solutions to key issues.
In fall 2011, students wrote a paper that highlights the general state of mental health in Mississippi with the goal of identifying the state’s core mental health issues. In addition, students had the opportunity to travel to Mississippi and discuss the paper with local Mississippians to determine which issues highlighted in the paper should be immediately addressed. In the spring of 2012, the last team developed policy recommendations based on the previous semester’s research.
In fall 2012, students developed legislative recommendations based on the recent Department of Justice investigation’s findings regarding the state of mental health services in Mississippi, followede up these recommendations with general legislative lobbying, and developed a cost analysis for strengthening community based services.
This spring, students are assisting in the development of the first Mental Health Court in Hinds County, the largest county in Mississippi. Mental Health Courts offer an alternative to traditional prosecution for defendants with mental illnesses which focuses on developing a long-term treatment plan with the goal of preventing future encounters with the criminal justice system. We will assist two Hinds County judges in developing an infrastructure, securing funding, and researching best practices in this area.