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Adams County hard-pressed to transport mentally ill detainees to treatment facilities
from Staff Reports - NEWS
November 6, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The large number of mentally ill jail detainees in Adams County prompts the need for more officers to transport them to psychiatric facilities, according to Chancery Judge George Ward.

Adams County supervisors are considering Ward’s request to hire more transport officers. It’s become “a monumental task” for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to transport detainees committed to state mental health hospitals for evaluation and treatment.

“What it amounts to is manpower,” Ward told the county Board of Supervisors at its Monday meeting.

“Adams County, for some reason, has an overload in (psychiatric) patients,” he said.

Sheriff Travis Patten said his agency must drive people daily to the state mental hospital at Whitfield or other psychiatric facilities. “Every day is a constant battle,” Patten said.

Ward, who oversees lunacy hearings in Adams County Chancery Court, noted the county exposes itself to being sued if it’s unable to transfer those committed to psychiatric facilities on a timely basis.

He said it’s uncertain why there are so many mental commitments in Adams County. In 2015, Adams County had 175, the second-largest number of such lunacy cases among Mississippi’s 82 counties, according to Adams County Chancery Clerk Brandi Lewis. With no public psychiatric facilities in Adams County and eight other southwest Mississippi counties, most people declared mentally incompetent by a chancery judge have been sent to Whitfield.

The lack of adequate mental-health facilities is a widespread problem in Mississippi, forcing many charged with crimes to be placed in jails not sufficiently staffed or equipped for those with mental disorders.

To come up with money needed for more transport officers, Adams County supervisors on Monday discussed the possibility of reducing the number of attorneys retained to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire their own lawyers. They’re paid about $250,000 a year -- $2,000 a month for each attorney. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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