Mental health consolidation bill dies in Senate

A Senate bill that would have given the governor control of the Department of Mental Health died on the floor Monday afternoon on a procedural vote.

Senate Bill 2567 died in a 24-27 vote on a procedural motion that would have allowed it to be sent to the House for consideration. The bill had passed Friday 25-24, but was held on a motion to reconsider that vote, a procedural move that any senator can enter after a bill is voted on.

Monday was the deadline for all bills to be passed, but senators declined to remove the procedural hold and the bill died on the Senate calendar.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, urged his colleagues to hold the bill in the Senate, saying the potential consequences of the bill were too important for it to be voted on “in the spur of the moment.”

“Once again, we are asked to make a decision with long-ranging repercussions without the knowledge we need to make that decision,” Bryan said. “It’s just not right to make a decision of this consequence right here all in a hurry on deadline day.”

Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune and Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, spoke in favor of the bill, telling their peers it would increase accountability for health care providers.

“This bill is about management, increased accountability and consistent public policy direction,” Clarke said.

State leaders have repeatedly criticized the Department of Mental Health for what they’ve said is a bloated staff and budget.

The bill would have allowed the governor to appoint the executive director of the department and demote the Board of Mental Health from a governing body to an advisory council. Opponents have said doing so would politicize the delivery of needed services.

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