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State partnership with Canopy could...

State partnership with Canopy could provide essential psychiatric care for Mississippi children

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 28, 2024

(Photo from Canopy Children's Solutions website)

  • Canopy Children’s Solutions could receive a grant of ARPA funds from the state of Mississippi to construct and renovate their CARES Center.

Legislative efforts are underway to provide state support for a private non-profit known for serving the needs of children and families in the state of Mississippi.

SB 3162 would authorize the use of a subgrant through the Department of Mental Health from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars in the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Lost Revenue Fund for Canopy Children’s Solutions. The grant could allow up to $20 million for the construction and renovation of the CARES Center in Jackson.

The CARES Center is a 24-hour intensive psychiatric residential treatment facility for children and youth ages 6 to 17. This 60-bed facility serves individuals who suffer from severe emotional and/or behavioral challenges.

The legislation would require that children under the care of the Department of Mental Health and Child Protection Services (CPS) receive priority when requesting care. An amendment offered on the Senate floor would ensure that a minimum of 33 beds be designated for patients in those departments’ custody.

“This legislative funding will provide for a state-of-the-art treatment facility designed specifically for children and adolescents who have suffered repeated trauma. Because such a facility does not yet exist in Mississippi, CPS spends over $2M a year in state funds to send kids out of state where they are disconnected from their community and family support systems,” said Andrea Sanders, Commissioner of CPS. “MDCPS is excited to be a partner in this innovative project that will benefit Mississippi children and families for years to come.”

State Senator Briggs Hopson (R), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committe, said the push for this bill came from the Department of Mental Health and CPS. Both agencies were aware that Canopy was in the process of building out beds for their CARE Center. Canopy has already received $5 million in federal dollars to begin construction.

“They [Mental Health and CPS] needed bed space, they needed places to put these kids and thought this was a wonderful opportunity for the state to invest in a program that would allow CPS and Mental Health to use it at no additional cost,” said Senator Hopson.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Briggs Hobson, R-Vicksburg (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The agencies also indicated to Hopson that the facility could be built at Canopy for far less than what the state could manage on one of its campuses.

Senator Hopson said the current bill allocates $20 million to the organization, which is the Senate position. He said conversations are ongoing with the House as to where that sub-grant amount lands.

“Today the Legislature recognized the urgency in addressing the children’s mental health crisis by passing House Bill 3162, a proactive step to ensure adequate treatment and housing for hard-to-place kids, some of whom are currently housed in hotels,” said Dr. John Damon, CEO of Canopy Children’s Solutions. “We are proud of the trust and accountability the Senate has shown in our agency partners, Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Child Protection Services (CPS), and our 112-year-old organization which is the largest nonprofit provider of children’s mental health services.  This legislation aligns with Canopy’s mission – helping improve the lives of kids – and we thank the Senate and its leadership for their commitment to create this solution for our state’s children.”

Canopy Children’s Solutions was founded in 1912 and serves as one of the state’s oldest and largest non-profits serving children and families. The organization spans across the state employing over 550 individuals in 18 locations, serving families and children in all 82 counties.

In 2022, Canopy served 7,955 children, a 23 percent increase from the prior year.

Wendy Bailey, Executive Director for DMH, said the bill would provide additional federal assistance in this public-private partnership.

“Canopy has the existing operational infrastructure to support this expansion and provide ongoing operations. The facility will be targeted at hard-to-place kids, particularly in CPS custody, to improve the quality of life and mental health for children and adolescents in need of longer term, enhanced psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility services that are trauma-focused,” said Bailey.

She added the department hopes to see a seamless transition in treatment levels and community-based services like MYPAC, Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock. Bailey said when a full continuum is offered it helps reduce recidivism and provides the specialized treatment needed for children in the state.

“Many times, these are children with severe trauma that the State is charged with identifying and/or providing the most appropriate treatment to meet their needs,” said Bailey.

The legislation passed 50-1 in the Senate on Wednesday. It will now move to the House for consideration.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: