The U.S. Department of Justice told U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves in a brief filed on Tuesday that it doesn't oppose the state's request for a partial stay in a case regarding the state's mental health system.
The state has already appealed Reeves' September 7 ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The DOJ won the final trial court round in its 2016 lawsuit over the state's institutionalization of the seriously mentally ill rather than focusing on community-based treatment methods.
The DOJ said in the brief that since the state has asserted it will perform its obligations under Reeves' order (except for those action items listed in the stay), it doesn't oppose the state's motion. It also said it did this without endorsing any of the state's arguments.
In its brief asking for a partial stay, the state says will suffer irreparable injuries from undue interference with its mental health system and a fundamental alteration of that system in both costs and structure.
The stay would pause implementation of several parts of the remedial plan devised by special master Dr. Michael Hogan, who has also been appointed to be the court-appointed monitor.
One requirement the state wants stayed is the mandate for Peer Support Services at all of its county mental health centers statewide in fiscal 2022 (which began on July 1). Funding for this change wasn't approved by the Legislature.
The state also wants to temporarily halt the mandate that the state fund 250 CHOICE housing vouchers for fiscal 2022 and 250 more in fiscal 2023 and sustain funding for those services. Those services cost $2 million each fiscal year until after 2023, when the requirement for an additional vouchers will double.
The clinical review process of 100 to 150 patients annually is a requirement the state wants temporarily paused. The state says it will have to restructure its system to design a clinical review process that doesn't exist that will cost additional tax dollars.
Attorneys for the state also asked the court to eliminate the requirement of submitting an action plan within 120 days. The state says it again will be forced to restructure its mental health system and incur additional costs during the process.
The federal government has successfully argued that the state's mental health system violates the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court says individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community under the Americans with Disabilities Act rather than be institutionalized.
The DOJ commenced an investigation in 2011 and sent a findings letter to then-Gov. Haley Barbour. The state and the DOJ attempted to negotiate a solution acceptable to both sides, but the DOJ later filed a lawsuit against the state on August 11, 2016 in U.S. District Court.
The federal government won on September 3, 2019 in a bench trial conducted by Reeves. Reeves ruled in favor of the federal government and designated a special master, Hogan, to help the court draft a remedial plan.