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Natchez board blocks plans for old Elks Club becoming a psychiatric facility
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 9, 2019 -

By John Mott Coffey
NATCHEZ, Miss. – The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to ban a proposed mental health facility in the old Elks Club that neighbors don't want near their homes in the Lower Woodville Road area.

Natchez aldermen acknowledged the community needs such a center to treat people with mental illnesses, but they followed residents’ urging not to rezone the property to allow mentally ill patients institutionalized near them. “We simply don’t want it in our neighborhood,” Joe Stedman told the board.

Aldermen turned down pleas from mental health-care professionals and advocates, who said the proposed crisis stabilization unit could provide much-needed intensive psychiatric care for eventually up to 15 people at a time. 

“These people are in our neighborhoods and they need help,” one advocate told the city board Tuesday.
Converting the now-closed Natchez Elks Club building into a psychiatric facility is being advocated by Southwest Mississippi Behavioral Health, a nonprofit, public service agency. It receives government and private funds to extend a variety of services for people with mental illnesses.

Federal law actually mandates the city to allow the unit’s location, said attorney Scott Slover, speaking on behalf of the mental health agency at the Board of Aldermen meeting. “Legally, this is required,” he said, pointing to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and requires various accommodations for them.

It’s uncertain if the Board of Aldermen’s action against the crisis stabilization unit’s location will be challenged in court. This comes a month after a federal judge ruled that Mississippi provides inadequate community-based services for people with mental illnesses. This has resulted in many emotionally disturbed people to be warehoused in psychiatric hospitals or unnecessarily jailed due to lack of space elsewhere for them to be treated. 

In voting Tuesday 6-0 to deny the psychiatric unit being located at the Lower Woodville Road site, the board affirmed a Natchez Planning Commission decision made last month. Aldermen cited concerns about emotionally unstable people being held in a building without security in a residential area. Concerns were also expressed about it bringing more traffic to Lower Woodville Road.

Aldermen did acknowledge such a facility is needed in Natchez and agreed to discuss alternative sites for it at a meeting Thursday with the Adams County Board of Supervisors. 

The formerly named Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex is now officially A Clear Path of Southwest Mississippi Behavioral Health, a public-private agency that relies on government grants, Medicaid and private dollars. The Adams County Board of Supervisors does annually give the agency about $77,000. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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