The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors held their first of the month meeting for June, Monday at the Lowndes County Courthouse board room. The meeting was relatively short but productive.
First up before the board was Lina Beall, the local Community Counseling Administrator. She gave out Community Counseling caps to members of the board. She began her presentation, “As always, it is really good to come before you this morning to give you an update on where we are with our agency and organization and these (caps) are just a small token of our appreciation for everything that you do in helping us provide the services to individuals with mental illness and individuals with intellectual disabilities in this county.
“I just want to take a second to go back over a couple of things…first of all, in 1963, the Mental Health Act actually established Community Health Centers. In 1975, Community Counseling Services actually opened its doors. Which now means we have been around serving people in Lowndes County and our 6 other counties for over 35 years. 35 years is a long time for a business to survive, especially when that business is in the mental health field and also in alcohol and drug services. Most people still don’t know what we do, but we are in the business and we as our goal and mission is to provide the best in care and welfare and security for everybody who needs mental health services, alcohol and drug services and service for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“In Lowndes County alone in 2010, we provided services for 1,851 individuals. Now, that’s individuals…when you multiply that…that’s 3.25% of this county, which is 59,000 (county population) the last time I looked. So that’s 3.25 that is directly affected by alcohol and mental health problems, if you multiply that, because most everybody has some sort of family, don’t they. If you multiply the fact that it affects two other folks, that’s almost 6,000 individuals which bumps it up to mental and alcohol services that affects around 10-12 percent of the population of Lowndes County. Which is a significant number, isn’t it?
“So we’re not thinking about small numbers anymore within the scope of our services, what we have done is to increase all of our services to individuals out there. You know, right now we serve the young, we serve the elderly, we serve those with limited income, we serve those with Medicaid, Medicare, with insurance. We were established to keep people out of state hospitals. Our goal is to keep people from going to East Mississippi and Whitfield. Our goal is to keep people whithin the community and to provide the best in services in the least restricted environment and that is always gonna be the goal. Now all of this is done with just a really small amount of federal dollars coming in. When mental health facilities were founded in the 60’s and 70’s the money was there, it was available…but they said ‘we’re not gonna keep this up forever’ and they didn’t. So we’re actually still running a lot of our programs on 1970’s money.”
“We operate under the standards of the State Department of Mental Health. And what that means is that we are not owned by the department. We operate under their standards just like there is a joint commission standard the hospitals must have approval of if they want reimbursement, we have to have the approval and that we have met these standards from the state department of mental health for us to get reimbursed from medicaid and other federal funds. But we’re not state employees, we are actually a regional community mental health center. And we are governed locally because each board of supervisors in all 82 counties appoints a representative to our board and we are governed and directed by that board. Our board’s commission meets on a monthly basis. Lowndes County proposed, and I’m really glad, is that Mr. Ralph Billingsley (County Administrator) be a member of our board. He joined just recently, as compared to some of the others as Mister Harry (Sanders) was there and he was a great help to us. And Mister Ralph stepped in and is that…we could not do what we do without the vision and direction and oversight of the board that we have. And I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for appointing Mister Ralph to our board because he has been a God-send in helping us in many things that we have undertaken. Since Mr. Billingsley has stepped into this role as a Lowndes County commissioner, he’s represented our community counseling services. We have 7 facilities in Lowndes County right now.”
Beall told the board how successful the service has been by renovating old buildings (such as the old Columbus hospital that Community Counseliing renovated many years ago where the current facilty is still located). Board President Harry Sanders suggested that the agency look into the possibility of acquiring and renovating the abandoned, old Lowndes County Health Department building on Military Road. (The new Health Department is located on Lehmberg Road). Beall pointed out that Lowndes County contributes $81,717 annually through its millage assessment. For 35 years, in fact. And she pointed out that, “we haven’t gotten a raise yet.” She asked that the supervisors possibly consider a slight increase.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks asked Beall that, during these hard times, “are we seeing an increase in a host of these situations?” to which Beall answered, “yes.”
Beall told the supervisors that, “we actually do intakes every Monday and Wednesday in the afternoon from 3:30, so if you want to…somebody needs services and we see them..” Brooks then joked, “Well…I don’t need services (to laughter)…I may need services…i’ve been told I need..(more laughter).” Beall answered, “If you know anybody who needs services..” Brooks joked, “Well…now that changes the dynamics of it..” to which Harry Sanders joked, “don’t be looking down on this end of the table”…
Beall invited Brooks and others down to tour the facility.
The board then held a scheduled public hearing on the abandonment of Old Yorkville Road. When County Attorney Tim Hudson asked if anyone in attendance would like to speak to the proposed abandonment of a portion of the road, there were no takers. The board then moved to abandon the road and the vote was unanimous to do so.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley then brought before the board the possibility of hiring an attorney to handle the Land Purchase bonds. Billingsley recommended the hiring of attorney Steve Eds (Baker-Donnelson Law Firm). Eds has handled such issues before. The board voted unanimously to do so.
After more regular county business, the board recessed until its next board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 15th at 9 a.m. at the supervisor board room inside the courthouse.