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Baria, Democrats want special session on mental heath cuts

House Speaker Philip Gunn adjourns the latest session of the House in April. Democrats hope the House and Senate come back for a special session.
House Speaker Philip Gunn adjourns the latest session of the House in April. Democrats hope the House and Senate come back for a special session. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rep. David Baria and other House and Senate Democrats have asked for a special session to deal with the budget shortfall in the Department of Mental Health.

"It is no secret that the state of Mississippi has had to make difficult budgetary decisions this legislative session," their letter to Gov. Phil Bryant, who has the power to call another session of the Legislature, said. "We understand that there are sacrifices that all Mississippians are called to make, and no one is more aware of this reality than the men and women who work in the field of mental health.

"Speak with any of Mississippi’s hard working mental health workers, and they will acknowledge that they have stretched to make things work. However, this recent round of cuts has simply gone too far. Mississippi is in serious danger of losing its matching  federal funds for services. We are in crisis; there is no other word to describe it.

"With the loss of matching funds will come even more consequential cuts to necessary services. People in need of rehabilitation and medical care will instead end up in prison, where they will not receive treatment, but become an additional burden on the taxpayers of Mississippi. These cuts will undoubtedly lead to significantly more costs -- economic  and human -- in the very near future.

"Accordingly, we, the undersigned members of the Mississippi legislature, feel compelled to ask you to call a special session for the purpose of finding additional funding to deal with this crisis."

The letter was signed by more than 60 others, including Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes of Gulfport, who is head of the Legislative Black Caucus; Rep. Jeramey Anderson of Moss Point; and Sen. Deborah Dawkins of Pass Christian. All are Democrats. No Republicans signed.

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