CMRC builds bridges to recovery

By BRENT MAZE,

While Central Mississippi Residential Center has undergone a number of changes in the last two years, officials said they continue to be a vital member of Newton County by providing help to those needing mental health services and educating the public on mental health awareness.

As of July 2017, CMRC was moved under the direction of East Mississippi State Hospital. Then in July 2018, CMRC added a second campus as EMSH merged its Kemper Group Homes with Newton. Now, the two campuses operate as one entity under CMRC, having four group homes in Newton and three in Kemper County, and the Newton campus also offers apartments for higher functioning clients. It employs about 137 persons between the two campuses.

Donna Creekmore, program director of CMRC, said they are continuing to offer the same care that they have always offered by helping transition clients from an institutionalized setting into the community.

“Our mission is still the same, to build bridges — bridges from hope to recovery, to overcome the stigma of mental illness and to span the gaps in services,” Creekmore said. “Nothing has changed with that. The only difference is the scope of how we’re doing that now.”

With the merger of the two campuses, Creekmore said that CMRC now serves much beyond their original catchment area, which used to be Newton and all eight surrounding counties. Now, they pretty much serve the entire state of Mississippi when it comes to transitional mental health care for their clients.

“We now serve clients from North Mississippi to the Gulf Coast,” Creekmore said. “We are the only state funded traditional mental health facility in the state. So that means we are working with psychiatric in-patient hospitals across the state to provide mental health care for everyone in the state.”

Creekmore said that CMRC clients average staying for 90 to 120 days in their group homes or apartments depending on the functionality of the client.

“We provide individualized care for each of our clients,” Creekmore said. “Each client has a different set of needs, and we work with the clients and their families to provide what they need. Our goal is to help them to make a smooth transition back into the community where they can lead successful lives and contribute to the community. And that’s where we step into to provide help the person-centered care they need.”

In addition to the care of the residents on campus, CMRC helps provide community awareness of mental illness through several programs. One in particular is the I Got U program, which is centered on providing school-age students education on mental illnesses, reducing the stigma of mental illness and to help teach the students how to respond to their classmates who are in need.

“I Got U got the go ahead to take it statewide,” said Frankie Johnson, director of the I Got U program and public relations director for CMRC. “It’s amazing how the program has grown. We go from the Delta and North Mississippi to the Gulf Coast. We are in the process of revamping the program to help us be able to see the entire state. But this program has made an impact on students statewide.”

Another outreach program has been the Crisis Intervention Team training program that CMRC sponsors for public safety agencies. It helps teach law enforcement officers how to handle situations involving persons with mental illness.

“The classes teach officers to be able to recognize it and then learn how to diffuse the situation,” Creekmore said. “It’s been a very popular class for law enforcement to help them when the encounter that on the job. We have several classes throughout the year.”

CMRC also has a Friends of CMRC organization that  promotes the work of CMRC and informing the public of mental illness and the needs of the individuals with mental illness. Friends helps to enhance quality of life by offering a variety of events and programs for CMRC patients and staff.

Membership to the organization is only $10 per year or $100 for a lifetime. Business membership starts at $125 per year.

“CMRC continues to be a strong partner of the community,” Creekmore said. “Our 68 employees had an impact of nearly $6 million during the fiscal year of 2018. Our employees are mostly from this area. They live here. They shop here. People enjoy coming to work here. We are working with the community to help our clients transition back into the community and to help raise awareness of mental health in our community.”

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