Sun Herald forum will focus on mental health services in South Mississippi

The Sun Herald is hosting a public forum on community mental health driven by recent events that show the critical nature of these services.

The forum will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Oct. 22 at the main auditorium of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies at 10801 Dolphin Lane in Gulfport. The event is free and refreshments will be served.

Registration is required and can be completed on the newspaper’s website at sunherald.com/events.

The near financial collapse this summer of Gulf Coast Mental Health prompted Coast politicians, law enforcement agencies and mental health professionals to call for management and funding that will ensure the agency’s survival, and expand services for those in crisis.

Also, a federal judge recently found in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department that the state discriminates against the mentally ill by failing to provide enough mental health services in the community as opposed to confinement in mental hospitals.

GCMH is working to overcome billing errors that helped lead to its financial crisis.

The agency recently hired a new director, Stacy Miller, who has previously served as CEO and superintendent of a state-operated residential treatment facility for troubled adolescents. She is a certified mental health therapist and public administrator with a master’s degree in public administration.

GCMH serves Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties, providing an array of services for both children and adults, including inpatient, outpatient and substance abuse programs.

A shortage of beds for crisis stabilization — one of GCMH’s services — means some mentally ill people wind up in jail. Hospital emergency room personnel also scramble to find mental health beds in psychiatric facilities.

The forum aims to generate discussion and ideas about supporting and improving mental health services in our community.

A panel discussion about community mental health will be followed by a question and answer session that will give attendees a chance to join the conversation.

Panelists are:

Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson

Julie Teater, a clinical psychologist who handles involuntary psychiatric commitments for the GCMH region;

Joy Hogge, executive director of Families as Allies, clinical psychologist and longtime advocate of giving families a voice in mental health reform;

Anita Lee, a Sun Herald journalist who has been covering the crisis at GCMH.