Catholic Day at the Capitol theme: reforms needed in mental health

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson’s Faith in Action Team (FIAT) hopes to spur legislators to enact meaningful reform in the realm of mental health care for the state, using as a catalyst the Catholic Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 17.
Advocates who attend the day will hear about the problems currently crippling the system and get some ideas for how to advocate for reform. Mississippi is currently facing a lawsuit for its lack of compliance with the 2009 Olmstead Supreme Court ruling which required states “to provide community-based treatment for persons with mental disabilities when… such placement is appropriate.”
“Mental illness affects everybody,” said Sue Allen, Catholic Charities’ coordinator of social justice ministry and the planner for Catholic Day at the Capitol. “The speakers we have coming are two of the most articulate and knowledgeable people about health care and the state of mental health care in Mississippi you could find. To be able to listen to them and ask questions of the panel we have put together is a unique opportunity,” she added.
To offer perspective on day-to-day issues involving mental health, FIAT has invited Angela Ladner, executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association and Joy Hogge, executive director of Families as Allies, as the keynote speakers for the day. The agenda also includes a panel discussion which will include people who work in fields impacted by the lack of mental health care, the chaplain of Parchman State Penitentiary and a victims’ rights advocate.
Hogge said her organization is made up of families whose children face mental health challenges. It offers parent-to-parent support, insight for policy-makers and advocacy for children. “We want to help on a system-wide level so organizations can be more responsive.”
“Our main goal is that families are partners in their children’s care. It is essential that they can be partners,” explained Hogge. She said there is a movement within the mental health community to provide care in the community for those facing mental health challenges. “We want to start with family-driven care using the idea of starting with what they really want to achieve and to support the families in reaching those goals.” Hogge said that means making services flexible so, for example, someone can stay in school or remain employed while they are getting treatment. “That might mean supporting the employer,” she said. She will be speaking about some practical ways people can advocate for change.
Angela Ladner is the executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, a statewide medical specialty organization whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Angela has persistently lobbied Mississippi lawmakers to make the necessary changes that will allow for more community-based treatment options.
The day starts at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle’s parish center. This year, participants can ask questions and interact with the panelists during the discussions. In addition to the keynote and panel discussions, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in Mass, eat lunch together and attend a news conference on the capitol steps about the need for reform.
Those who wish can tour the capitol and speak with lawmakers.
The day will conclude with coffee at the cathedral center at 3 p.m. The day is free, but it is essential that people register so organizers will have enough lunches on hand.
Register online at or contact Sue Allen directly at (601) 355-8634 or Large groups are welcome.