Public Health

Public Health

Public health outcomes in the Mississippi Delta are among the worst in the country. In recognition of this fact, Delta Directions created a new post-doctoral fellowship in 2013 focused on developing new public health research and programmatic opportunities in the region. Expanding on our previous work on mental health, the public health fellow will collaborate with partners from around the country to improve public health in the Mississippi Delta. More information on the fellowship will be available shortly.

Mental health has a profound impact on Mississippi’s economy and standard of living, as it is deeply connected education, unemployment, crime, substance abuse, and public assistance. Nonetheless, policymakers commonly neglect mental health issues. After discussions with community-based organizations, residents, and mental health advocates in the region, Delta Directions partnered with the Mississippi Delta Project to create the Mental Health Initiative in order to raise awareness of mental health issues among Mississippi’s legislators and public policy organizations. The initiative works closely with advocacy organizations to identify issues of specific concern to Mississippi and then conducts, distills, and distributes research on these issues in an effort to affect policy. The initiative is committed to advocating policies whose efficacy is based on the best available evidence, without regard to ideology or political affiliation.

Delta Directions has also published a series of policy briefs on issues regarding children’s health in collaboration with the Mississippi Delta Project. Visit our youth page to find the publications and learn more about our work in this area.

In addition to descriptions of our current public health initiatives and projects, relevant Delta Directions publications can be found below. A list of past Delta Directions public health projects can be found here.

Ongoing Research and Projects

Hinds County Behaviorial Health Court Project

The Mental Health Initiative is assisting the Southern Institute for Mental Health Advocacy, Research and Training (SMHART) and Judge Tomie Green in their efforts to create a behavioral health court in Hinds County, home of Jackson, the capitol and largest city in Mississippi. Behavioral health courts divert defendants with mental illnesses from the traditional criminal justice system into treatment. After screening and evaluation, defendants who agree to participate work closely with court personnel and mental health practitioners to complete an individualized treatment program.

Currently, Hinds County has established a behavioral health diversionary program that follows this model, but with limited resources, infrastructure, and treatment options. The program’s founders would like to expand it into an independent court docket to better meet the needs of participants. The initiative will help in this expansion by identifying best practices within each of the major components of a behavioral health court system. These practices will be evaluated with the specific needs and constraints of Hinds County in mind. A report outlining these practices will be distributed to community advocates to assist them in the design of the court as well as in efforts to obtain funding for its development.


Legislative Recommendations for Strengthening Community Based Care of Mental Illness in Mississippi

Improving Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment in Juvenile Detention Facilities

Mental Health Court Practices

Mental Health in Mississippi: Analysis and Recommendations