Appeals court rules against federal government in Mississippi mental health case

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(The Center Square) — The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a lower court decision that required extensive changes to Mississippi’s mental health system on Wednesday.

The three-judge panel said in the unanimous decision that the ruling — which required an indefinitely-appointed independent monitor and other structural changes to the state agency — that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi abused its discretion and said the injunction is “intrusive and unworkable.” They also cited arguments of federalism in their decision.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Mental Health in 2016 after commencing an investigation in 2011. The agency said that the state institutionalized too many mentally ill people and instead needed to transition to a community-based plan compliant with the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C.

In 2019, U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and mandated the appointment of an independent monitor paid for by state funds, along with changes to the state Department of Mental Health that the state said in court filings would put an undue burden on Mississippi taxpayers.

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