Report To The People

House Bill Would Provide 20 Million To Fund County Mental Health Centers

By Tommy Reynolds

This last week the House of Representatives took up for passage the first major bills of the 2008 legislative session.

The House overwhelming passed HB 105 which would provide $3.9 million in funds for continued transportation of kidney dialysis patients to their dialysis treatment facilities through June 30, 2009. I co-sponsored this legislation and strongly supported its passage.

I think it is vital that we continue to transport dialysis patients who need transportation to their treatment. We have heard medical testimony that if these patients miss their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments their life spans will be greatly shortened.

In addition to this Bill providing for transportation of dialysis patients, I am introducing a bill this year to provide for transportation for needy cancer chemotherapy patients. A representative of the American Cancer Society has spoken with me in support of this legislation and accompanied me to meet with a House draftsman when the legislation was being prepared earlier this week. I know that we have a tight budget situation, but I do not want to see cancer patients fall through the cracks and their needs not be met.

The House of Representatives this week passed HB 159 which appropriates $20 Million to the Department of Medicaid in order to keep our county mental health centers open through June 30, 2008. If additional funding is not provided for our county mental health centers, many of them will close and mental health patients served by these facilities would not have appropriate or adequate mental health treatment available.

This week I was pleased to meet at length with the Region I Mental Health Center Director, Dr. Michelle Carroll. She informed me that Region I county mental health offices in the area (which includes Tallahatchie County) would have to close within a few weeks time if an appropriation were not made for additional funds for Medicaid to keep the county mental health centers open.

Dr. Carroll and other mental health professionals were very pleased when the House of Representatives voted last Thursday by an overwhelming margin to pass HB 159, which I co-sponsored, to provide $20 million for continued funding for our county mental health centers.

It is my hope that the Senate will promptly pass this measure so that our county mental health centers can continue to provide needed mental health care for our residents. It should be remembered that if mental health treatment or medication is interrupted there can be severe and long-lasting ill effects – not only on the mentally ill person, but also on their loved ones.

With proper treatment of mental illness, most of those suffering from mental illnesses can lead productive and fulfilling lives. I spoke in the House Appropriations Committee when this Bill was considered on Thursday morning and told the Committee of the potential closure of our county mental health centers across the state if adequate funding were not provided.

I anticipate that next week or shortly thereafter, the House of Representatives will vote to provide funding for K-12 education needs in our state for next year. I strongly support full funding for K-12 education now at the early part of the legislative session so we can be sure education will receive the funds that have been promised.

School districts like Charleston, Water Valley and Coffeeville are very much dependent on state funds for needed education funding. If state funds that are promised are not forthcoming, local taxes might be required to be raised.    

Failure to provide adequate state funding for K-12 would break our state’s commitment to adequate funding for education and could hurt the economic development of our state. I am very optimistic that the House of Representatives will pass a bill to fully fund education and do so promptly.

If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of P.O. Box 220, Charleston, MS 38921

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