U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves issued an order Friday that grants a partial stay for the state in the federal lawsuit over the state's treatment of the mentally ill.
The state asked for the stay as it appeals Reeves' September 7 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
One of the reasons Reeves said in his order that he granted the stay was that the U.S. Department of Justice told him in a brief filed on October 12 that it didn't oppose the stay. The DOJ didn't oppose the stay because the state says it will fulfill the rest of its obligations in Reeves' order except for the parts of it stayed by his newest order.
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'll also be the court-appointed monitor.
The stay will delay implementation of the requirement 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, according to the brief.
The stay also halts 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 would've 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 another mandate that will be paused by the stay. The state says it would have to restructure its system by designing a clinical review process that doesn't exist and will cost additional tax dollars.
The requirement of submitting an action plan within 120 days is also part of the stay. The state says it would 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 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.