U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves issued his final order Monday in a five-year legal battle over the state’s mental health system.
Reeves ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice in the 2016 lawsuit over the state’s over reliance on institutionalization of the seriously mentally ill. The state still can appeal the decision to the U.S. District Court of Appeals.
In his order, Reeves specified that the court-appointed special master Dr. Michael Hogan will transition as court-appointed monitor and he'll allowed to conduct investigations, interview mental health officials, patients and families, hold hearings or take evidence. His term will last for three years initially in a term that can be renewed by the court.
The monitor will provide the court with written reports every six months on its compliance with the remedial order issued Monday. The state wanted the monitor's budget to be split between the federal and state governments, but Reeves in his order specified that the state will pay the costs of supporting Hogan and his staff.
The state will have to issue an initial implementation plan to the monitor and the DOJ within 120 days and a final proposed plan to the monitor within 180 days.
Attorneys for the state said in its brief that the monitor's powers should be limited only to reporting to the court whether it has met the objective criteria of Hogan’s remedial plan.
The federal government 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 Department of Justice 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.