Supervisors seeking funds to improve Extension office; still looking for good way to deal with mental patients

The Union County Board of Supervisors is working to get funds to provide better quarters for the Union County Extension Office at the fairgrounds.

Board members Monday approved a resolution of authorization with the Mississippi Development Authority, attempting to get a $150,000 grant from the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties Program. If they are successful, the funds will be used to make improvements to the Extension Office. The staff needs more space, they say, but renovation is most important since they are housed in what is a converted former fair exhibition building from the 1950s era.

The possibility of moving the staff to another county building and even constructing a new office adjacent to the fairgrounds arena have been talked about but renovation of the existing space appears to be the most realistic possibility.

County board members got some bad news at their Monday meeting regarding their quandary over how to deal with Union Countians with severe behavioral health problems.

For the past few weeks, supervisors have been trying to work out a way to continue handling mental patients the way they have for the past three years. They were notified a week ago that the service they have been using will possibly be discontinued later this year, but the Region IV Mental Health Center Executive Director, Charlie Spearman, assured them then that they would be able to continue until September, regardless.

However, at Monday’s meeting, Chancery Clerk Annette Hickey said she had received a letter from Region IV saying the service was being dropped as of July 3.

Supervisors are looking at various possible alternatives, such was contracting with a hospital certified to house mental patients for the state, somehow reviving the service they were using, looking into the possibility of going together with other counties to eventually build a facility, or getting other funding or support. Hickey said a representative from the Region III Mental Health Center is scheduled to meet with supervisors next Monday in an effort to find help. She and supervisors are talking with other officials seeking some sort of help.

For the past three years, through the contract with Region IV, when a Union County resident has had commitment papers filed, deputies would pick that person up and take him or her directly to the transitional facility in Tupelo. There, the person would be evaluated, provided legal representation, given a hearing if desired, and housed until a bed became available at the state hospital. There was no direct cost or liability to Union County for the patients once they were initially picked up and taken to the Region IV facility.

Unless a solution can be found quickly, though, the county will have to go back to its old system. That means when a person has commitment papers filed, deputies pick him or her up and take him or her to the Union County Jail. The patient stays there until being transported to Region III in Tupelo for evaluation, returned to jail, then transported to court for a hearing, returned to jail, and then kept in the jail until a bed is available at the state hospital.

The transportation cost, medical cost, housing and liability for the patients would all be on Union County.

Officials hope to have a better answer next week but none had presented itself as of Monday.

On a more positive note, board members got an update on the services being provided to local residents by the Regional Rehab Center in Tupelo.

Representatives of the center were there to make their annual budget request as well as report on the help given to Union Countians.

New Executive Director Robby Parham, who has replaced Kay Matthews upon her recent retirement after many years, thanked the board for their support over the years. “Without your funding, there is no way we could provide the services we do,” he said.

Regional Rehab provides physical, occupational and speech therapy to children and adults at no charge to individuals.

Speech therapist Brandy Evans, who is married to New Albany High School Principal Lance Evans, talked about the atmosphere at the center. “They’re my second family,” she said. The services are family-oriented and “it’s like a loving home,” she added.

Evans said many people don’t realize they serve adults as well as children “and it’s not just people who cannot afford it,” she said. Sometimes insurance will only cover a limited number of visits or commercial insurance will not pay for all the services, she said. “But we tell people this is free; you are why we are here.”

Evans sees a lot of Union County clients and about three-fourths of her clients are children under five.

Donna Treadaway next spoke as someone who is from Union County and is the parent of a Regional Rehab client. “My daughter has been going there since she was three,” she said. “She is now 17 and a wild little woman.”

Treadaway said the center has helped them through three brain surgeries that have affected the daughter’s right side and will continue to help even though she is a young adult. “We could not have afforded it (without them),” she said.

Supervisors said they appreciate what the center does.

“We’ve both been there,” board president Danny Jordan said, referring to a family member who has benefitted from Regional Rehab. “We know what you go through and will support it as long as I am on the board.”

The funding request was for $10,000, which is what the board has been allocating to Regional Rehab and is more than any of the other eight member counties except Lee. For that, this past year the center has provided 750 services to Union Countians at no cost to the individuals. Seventy-five percent of the facility’s budget goes back into client services with 13 percent for fundraising and 12 percent for administration.

In other business supervisors:

  • Agreed to approve a letter of engagement with the state auditor’s office. Chancery Clerk Hickey said that, basically, the state department will audit Union County and Union County will have to pay the department for it. No cost was given.
  • Approved election commissioners’ per diem claim forms, in connection with which they prepare for and hold elections. Graham Spencer, First District, received $504; Bill Azlin, Second District, received $588; Barbara Reed, Third District, received $588; Mike Beam, Fourth District, received $1,176; and Wayne Wilhite, Fifth District, received $588. Election commissioners receive a fee set by law for a maximum number of days per year.
  • Approved paying Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford $588 for services as county registrar.
  • Accepted the 2013 land roll as submitted by Tax Assessor-Collector Randy Dunnam.
  • Approved the June claims docket, June board minutes, solid waste register and July work schedule for the road department.

 

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors will be at 10 a.m. Monday, July 14.