PRCC hosts Chapel Hart watch party for America’s Got Talent performance


www.wxxv25.com – Rick Gogreve – 2022-09-13 21:27:13

With Chapel Hart in the finals of America’s Got Talent, PRCC and the community gathered together to celebrate the home-grown stars.

Celebrating the Chapel Hart girls has become pretty easy for Poplarville and today Pearl River Community College threw the biggest celebration yet.

Students from PRCC, friends, family, and other community residents gathered at Dobie Holden Stadium for a grand watch party of America’s Got Talent to see the trio perform live.

Guests watched the big screen as the girls performed their original song ‘American Pride.’


Source link

Cops came to take him to the hospital. They killed him instead.


Deputies were supposed to take him to the hospital. They killed him instead.

If Corey Maurice McCarty Hughes stopped taking his medication, his family knew what to do. When he started to become paranoid or barricaded himself in a room, a family member would go down to the Forrest County chancery clerk’s office and file an affidavit stating that Hughes needed to be hospitalized. Then, sheriff’s deputies would pick him up and take him to get treatment. 

The series of events had unfolded about 16 times before, and there was little reason to think it would be different when it happened again in mid-July of this year. 

When family members sought to have him committed, they expected he would spend a few weeks or months at the state hospital in Purvis and then come home to Palmers Crossing in Hattiesburg, where he lived in a trailer a few hundred feet from his parents’ house.  

On July 14, Forrest County deputies arrived at Hughes’ sister’s house to take him to the hospital. They killed him instead. 

According to the incident report released to Mississippi Today by the sheriff’s office, Hughes struck a deputy with a “blunt object” before the deputy shot him in the torso. 

Exactly what happened is still unclear: The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is investigating, as it does every time law enforcement officers kill someone in the state. The Bureau refused to turn over records except for an incident report until the investigation is over. 

The news you need — direct to your inbox.

The four deputies at the scene were not wearing body cameras; their department had begun buying the cameras only in June after receiving a federal grant. Forrest County Sheriff’s Office officials said they would not provide further information until MBI’s investigation is closed.

But to Hughes’ loved ones, the case is already a clear indictment of the state’s mental health and criminal justice systems, which are uniquely intertwined in a process called civil, or involuntary, commitment. 

Every year, thousands of Mississippians and hundreds of thousands of Americans go through the civil commitment process. For some Mississippi families navigating a patchwork system of mental health services and care, having relatives forced into treatment is not just the option of last resort, but the only option. 

Some Mississippians, like Hughes, go through the process more than a dozen times, cycling in and out of state hospitals without connecting to effective long-term treatment back home.

“Civil commitment is forcing someone to get mental health treatment,” said Sitaniel Wimbley, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Mississippi. “Had that individual had someone to talk to … or they had been in a treatment plan, civil commitment may not be something that they ever have to see, because they would be aware of their mental health and what’s going on in the process to be able to get help for themselves.” 

The state is the subject of a years-running federal lawsuit over its failure to provide adequate mental health services in communities, historically forcing people to spend years institutionalized in mental hospitals. 

As in many states, Mississippi law specifically requires sheriff’s deputies to transport the person being committed, effectively forcing law enforcement to get involved in the care of people suffering from serious mental illness. The justification for this is that only law enforcement is equipped to physically force someone to get treatment against his or her will. But mental health advocates say the mere presence of a officer – especially if they are not trained in helping people in a mental health crisis – can increase a person’s distress and agitation. 

Hughes’ father, James Hughes, doesn’t understand why medical professionals were not on the scene – at the least to talk with his son before police pulled out a weapon. On other occasions when he didn’t want to go to the hospital, officers sometimes used their taser, but never a gun, he said.

“I’m under the impression, well, I’ll be going to Purvis to visit my son,” he said. “And then I have to bury him.”

A baby photo of Corey Maurice Hughes. Hughes was shot and killed by Forrest County Sheriff’s deputy after attempting to take him to a mental facility.

‘That was my son’

When his son was at the hospital in Purvis, James and his wife visited every chance they could. He usually stayed there for a few months, once close to a year. The family would pick up food – Hughes loved chicken and pork chops – and eat together at a park before taking him back to the hospital. 

“That was my son,” James said. “If we don’t support him, who is?”

Hughes, born Corey Maurice Hughes, spent his childhood fishing and hunting. The youngest boy in a family of seven siblings and half-siblings, he was a joker who liked to make people laugh. 

When he was a kid, his dad bought him toy dump trucks, tractors, and Tonka trucks. After high school, he got a job driving 18-wheelers for a local trucking company. He drove as far as California and New York. 

James said his son’s health problems began in the late 1990s, when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“He had desires to go back to school, and he wanted to get back into trucking, but with his health issues, that wasn’t fixing to happen,” James said. 

After he got sick, Hughes spent most of his time around his family. He lived independently in a white trailer just steps away from the house where he spent most of his childhood. From a chair on the concrete porch, he could see when someone stopped by his parents’ home, which happened often because James is a notary public. Hughes would walk over to check up on them. 

“He was sick, but he wasn’t just crazy, crazy,” James said. “He was sick. Paranoid schizophrenia is a sickness.”

Hughes would tell his father about the voices he heard: usually women, sometimes cursing him out. He had insurance thanks to disability and got treatment at Pine Belt Mental Health Services in Hattiesburg and from other doctors, but his father doesn’t think the medication did him much good. 

That’s part of why he sometimes stopped taking it, James said. When he was killed, it had been about three months since he had taken the medication.

James E. Hughes talks about the shooting of his son, Corey Maurice Hughes, at his home in the Palmers Crossing community in Hattiesburg, Miss., Tuesday, August 16, 2022. Corey was shot and killed by a Forrest County Sheriff’s deputy as deputies attempted to transport him to a mental health facility.

Civil commitment, a controversial process, expanding around the country

Among mental health experts and providers, involuntary commitment is controversial. The legal process takes away someone’s freedoms of movement and bodily autonomy without ever charging them with a

Because of patient privacy concerns, inconsistent recordkeeping and different processes across jurisdictions, the number of people who are forced into mental health treatment against their will every year in the United States is unclear. 

Research suggests the rates vary widely across states, and that the number of involuntary commitments  each year is on the rise. One study found that from 2011 to 2018, the rate of involuntary commitments grew three times faster than population growth across 25 states. (Mississippi was not included in the study.)

In Mississippi, chancery clerks handle the paperwork around civil commitment, and chancery judges determine whether someone will be forced into treatment. But the process historically has varied from county to county. Wimbley said some counties have charged different amounts of money for initiating the commitment process. Some judges are known for committing people based on limited medical evidence, said Melody Worsham, a long-time advocate for Mississippians with mental illness and a certified peer support specialist at the Mental Health Association of

“Some judges will commit somebody just based on the word of a distant relative that says, ‘Hey, this guy is nuts. You need to lock up my relative,’” she said. “Then others are like, ‘No, you better present some serious evidence that this person needs to have his life taken from him.’”

As part of the federal against the state, Mississippi is under pressure to reduce civil commitments. The Department of Mental Health is aiming to divert people from the state hospitals by trying to connect family members to resources so they don’t see commitment as the only option.

The lawsuit settlement agreement requires the state to bring consistency to the civil commitment process by establishing uniform guidelines and training chancery staff. 

Roughly 5,000 Mississippians were committed in Fiscal Year 2021, according to data collected by the Office of the Coordinator of Mental Health Accessibility – a position created by the Legislature to oversee mental health programs in the state.

The number of commitments per capita varied widely around the state, from one per 290 people in Region 1 – Coahoma, Quitman, Tunica and Tallahatchie Counties – to one per 1,011 in Region 15 – Warren and Yazoo Counties. 

Region 14, which includes 13 counties in south Mississippi, sits in the middle, at one per 554. In Forrest County, the rate was one per 422, with 177 commitments and 86 admissions to the state hospital. 

Forrest County Chancery Clerk Lance Reid said families are often reluctant to turn to commitment. But sometimes, commitment is the only option they have. 

He tells them: “You’re faced with putting your loved one in a facility, but the way you have to look at it is, that’s the best that we can offer in this state right now to try to get them some help, to try to get them some medications that can get them better, get them some treatment.”

The state hospitals are supposed to improve discharge planning, so that when someone’s civil commitment ends, the patient is immediately connected to resources and care in the community. But the first report produced by the special monitor charged with evaluating how well the state is complying with the federal settlement agreement found that that wasn’t happening at every state hospital

That could be contributing to the high number of readmissions for people who are civilly committed – like Hughes.

“There’s a pretty big revolving door, for lack of a better word,” Reid said. “Yes, we see a lot of return patients … The fact of the matter is, they get out, even if they follow up with their local community mental health provider, they have that tendency to get back off their medicine and come back through the system again.”

James said he had no problems with the hospital at Purvis, where the staff were always respectful and professional. But his son wound up having to go back more years than not after his diagnosis. 

In 2014, Hughes legally changed his name from Corey Maurice Hughes to Maurice McCarty Hughes. Sometimes he had to remind his parents to call him Maurice, not Corey. The most recent time he stopped taking his medication, he told his father it was because an employee at his doctor’s office in had called him the wrong name.

“But you know, I don’t know if they have to have an excuse,” he said. “You don’t know what nobody’s mind is telling them.”

Corey Maurice Hughes’ funeral program. Hughes was shot and killed by Forrest County Sheriff’s deputy after attempting to take him to a mental health facility.

Unclear how many Mississippians have been killed by law enforcement during civil commitment 

Sheriff’s deputies have killed at least two other Mississippians during a civil commitment in the last 12 years, according to records Mississippi Today requested from MBI. 

But the true figure of people who have been killed when law enforcement was supposed to take them to mental health evaluation and treatment is not known: MBI’s records cover only those cases the agency investigated. Prior to last year, law enforcement agencies in Mississippi were not required to bring in MBI to conduct an independent investigation when their officers killed someone. That means any records of such events could be spread across the state’s 82 counties. 

Jesse Jones, a 53-year-old Black man, was killed by deputies on April 27, 2010, when they arrived at his home in Carthage “to serve a lunacy warrant.”

“Victim pulled a weapon on deputies and was shot in yard by 1 deputy,” the sparse MBI report says. “Subject taken to Leake Memorial Hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead.”

The report contains no other details about Jones’ life or death. 

At around 10 p.m. on May 14, 2020, Choctaw County deputies arrived at the home of John Beam, a 65-year-old white man, to serve both an arrest warrant for simple assault, stalking and trespassing and a writ to take custody for a mental health examination. Beam had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and, according to the MBI report, “complained about his medication not working and stopped taking said medication.” His daughter had begun the involuntary commitment process by filing an affidavit that he could harm himself or others. 

Around midnight, Beam pointed a pistol at the deputies and then began firing. The deputies fired back. Four hours later, they entered the house and found him lying dead on the floor. 

Law enforcement often steps into the mental health services gap because they’re the only service people can or know how to call. So Mississippi has expanded crisis intervention team (CIT) training across the state, designed to teach officers how to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis and connect them to treatment instead of taking them to jail. 

The training requires 40 hours, a substantial commitment of time and resources for a law enforcement agency. Mississippi officers learn about mental illness and local resources and laws. They practice verbal de-escalation strategies and learn the procedures for connecting people to nearby mental health facilities. They speak with people who have firsthand experience with mental illness, and they spend hours role-playing with their classmates and trainers. 

Nearly 700 law enforcement officers in Mississippi have participated in the training since mid-2018, according to the Department of Mental Health.

The Pine Belt region has been a leader in the training, thanks to a federal grant to the local community mental health center. Thirty-two Forrest County deputies have completed the training since 2017. 

Mississippi law enforcement, mental health leaders and advocates agree the training is a powerful tool. 

Wade Johnson, a retired police captain who has spent about a decade expanding CIT training around the state and now serves as the East Mississippi Training Coordinator, said sheriffs and police chiefs recognize the need to change the way law enforcement interacts with people in mental health crises. 

“They don’t want their department to be front page on how they had to deal with this particularly mentally ill subject that led to something very unfortunate,” he said. “They want their officers and deputies to get that training, that they can do a proper response to the mentally ill and get them help, keep them out of the jails, if that’s not the place for them.”

But nationally, there are questions about how effective the training is at reducing use of force against people experiencing mental health crises. 

One 2016 analysis of studies on the program found that none of them found CIT significantly reduced the chances that an officer used force against a mentally ill person. One study found that it was actually associated with a significant increase in use of force. 

The Forrest County Sheriff’s Office said all four officers who responded to Hughes’ home had gone through the training. 

“That makes me sick to think about,” Worsham said. 

Of their 25 current patrol personnel, 17 had completed the training as of late July, and the remaining will do so when there are classroom seats available, the department said.

Johnson said that nothing in the training teaches officers to disregard their departments’ use of force policies, which generally permit officers to use deadly force against someone they believe could kill or seriously injure the officer or another person. 

“You go to a scene involving a mental health issue,” he said. “You get there, it explodes all over you. I don’t have time to deploy CIT. You gotta take care of the business as it’s unfolding in front of you.”

Corey Maurice Hughes was in the process of repairing these vehicles, shown here outside of his home in the Palmers Crossing community in Hattiesburg, Miss., Tuesday, August 16, 2022. One of Corey’s hobbies was repairing cars for racing. Corey was shot and killed by a Forrest County Sheriff’s deputy, as deputies attempted to transport him to a mental health facility.

‘Nobody can love me how you did’ 

Mississippi Today obtained incident reports from MBI and the sheriff’s office. The agencies said they will withhold all other documents – including witness and officer interviews, forensic analysis, and photos – during the investigation.

When MBI finishes its investigation, it will turn over the files to the ’s office, who will present the evidence to the grand jury thanks to a law that took effect two weeks before Hughes was killed. It could take months for this process to play out.

According to the Forrest County incident report, deputies got to Hughes’ sister’s house just after 6 p.m. 

“Shortly after deputies arrived at the residence a male subject approached one of the deputies and an altercation ensued,” the summary says. “The deputy received an injury to the head from a blunt object and the subject received a gunshot wound to the torso.”

The deputy was taken to the hospital. 

James said his son was carrying a hammer, a screwdriver and a pellet gun with no pellets. He doesn’t understand why the officers – who knew they were picking up a mentally ill person to force him to go to the hospital – got so close to his son that he could hit one of them with a hammer. 

Hughes’ 14-year-old daughter was in the house when he was killed. She had come from Louisiana to be with her dad and his family for the summer. They had gone on a trip to Disney World and spent time cooking together. Now, her dad lay dead in front of his sister’s home. 

James said his son’s body was left outside for nearly five hours after the shooting. 

He believes a staff member from Pine Belt or another person with expertise in mental health should go on commitment calls, with deputies present for backup. A person with different training and tools could have handled the situation differently, he feels. 

“If you ain’t got no gun, you can’t use no gun,” he said. 

Hughes was buried on July 23. His funeral program included a note from his daughter, who remembered him teaching her how to cook eggs in the kitchen of his trailer.

“Nobody can love me how you did,” she wrote. “Just wish you were with me now chilling and listening to music as the days go by.”

Now, James remembers his son during quiet moments at home, cooking or folding laundry. 

“I just think, if he’d have been here, he would be folding my clothes for me,” James said. “And I just think, gee, so many things he did to help me. And you know, I used to think, well, Corey will miss us when we’re gone. Then I’m missing him.”

Before he died, Hughes was working on fixing up two cars: a Ford Fairmont and a Chevrolet S-10. He wanted to turn them into race cars, his dad said. He’d ordered parts from a local mechanic but never got to use them. Soon, James will go by the shop to pick up the parts. 

The cars, sagging a bit on their wheels, ready for a fresh coat of paint, still sit in the driveway outside the trailer where his son lived.

Support this work with a recurring donation today!

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

City of Poplarville cheers on Chapel Hart on America’s Got Talent


www.wxxv25.com – Ansley Brent – 2022-08-18 17:46:39

The America’s Got Talent finale is slated for September 13th, but today, 25’s Ansley Brent went to and says the atmosphere in support of Chapel Hart has been phenomenal.

Home of the Hornets, blueberries, and Chapel Hart, Poplarville is one proud city.

From receiving the first-ever group Golden Buzzer on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ and now advancing to the shows finals on September 13th, Chapel Hart has truly made a name for themselves.

One of their songs says ‘they’re ain’t no holding down a country girl,’ and boy do they practice what…

Source link

News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Poplarville Hornets

Biloxi - Local News Feed Images 011

www.wxxv25.com – Jeff Haeger – 2022-07-25 14:55:29

Consistency is key at stop number three on 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days. The football factory has reached the final four of Class 4A for the last half-dozen years.

Ready or not, once again, here come the Hornets who seem to be at their happiest when their opponents are unhappy.

Outside linebacker Mark Will said, “We know the standard we uphold to. We have to make it back. That’s not a choice – we might…

Source link

Patrick Ochs named PRCC Director of Athletics


www.wxxv25.com – Jeff Haeger – 2022-07-13 21:56:35

The Pearl River Community College baseball team is less than two months removed from winning the program’s first-ever NJCAA Division II World Series.

One of the many good things in since Patrick Ochs arrived and now it is time for a promotion.

Today, PRCC announced Ochs as the school’s new director of athletics after serving as sports information director, assistant director of marketing and communications,…

Source link

Local country music band Chapel Hart preparing for America’s Got Talent


www.wxxv25.com – Janae Jordan – 2022-07-05 17:59:42

The band Chapel Hart stopped by 25 today to talk about their country music journey and their preparations for America’s Got Talent auditions.

The natives started their music journey in 2018, consisting of sisters Danica Hart and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle. After brain storming, the country music trio came up with name Chapel Hart taking their name from a church in their hometown. “So, we…

Source link

How an ex-Marine named Billy helped Pearl River CC win the national championship


How an ex-Marine named Billy helped Pearl River CC win the national championship

You know about and Southern Miss baseball teams winning NCAA Regionals and facing off this weekend in a Super Regional at Hattiesburg. You know about Mississippi State winning the national championship of college baseball last season. You know about the tradition of success at Delta State.

Rick Cleveland

College baseball: It gets no better than what we have here in Mississippi. And it goes a lot deeper than those aforementioned. Last week, Pearl River Community College, 30 miles south of Hattiesburg in , won the national championship of junior college baseball.

At Enid, Okla., the Wildcats, coached by Jackson native Michael Avalon, lost to Madison (Wisc.) College 11-4 in the first game of a best-of-three championship series and then came back and smoked Madison 19-1 and 7-2 the next two games. Madison entered the championship series having lost only eight of 56 games the entire season.  Pearl River beat them twice in two days by a total of 23 runs.

There’s so much to tell you about those Pearl River Wildcats, including the fact that 12 players off the team have either signed or committed to play for Division I teams in college baseball. That’s not even counting centerfielder Tate Parker of , who should be named national junior college player of the year any day now and hasn’t committed to any four-year college yet. He may just go pro.

All those guys will follow a path so many Wildcats have taken over the past few seasons under Avalon. Slugging outfielder Reece Ewing and closer Landon Harper, former Wildcats, are two of the keys to Southern Miss’ success this season. Pitcher Cole Tolbert, who earned the most outstanding pitcher award of the national championship series (16 strikeouts in nine innings), has signed to play at Ole Miss.

The Wildcats lose a slew of players off the championship team, but Avalon believes he has “some really outstanding players waiting in the wings” to make another run next season.

“Pearl River will win as long as he’s there,” says Harper, the Southern Miss closer from Meridian. “Coach Avalon is a winner. No matter where I go or what I do, I am going to remember that man the rest of my life. He makes you not only a better player but a better person.”

The acronym “S.O.A.P.” is all over the PRCC locker room.

Avalon, who grew up in south Jackson and pitched for Forest Hill, operates the Pearl River program, basing every aspect of his coaching on a four word mantra: “Success = Organization, Attitude, Pride.” The acronym is S.O.A.P. You’ll find it anywhere you look in the Pearl River locker room, dugout and clubhouse.

Michael Avalon didn’t come up with the slogan. No, he took it from his dad, the late Billy Avalon, who was a much-beloved English literature teacher and coach in the Jackson area for decades.

Billy Avalon, a gruff-voiced ex-Marine who loved his family, words and sports (probably in that order), was the best coach Michael Avalon ever had, Michael says. And if you talk to students who had Billy as their English or literature teacher at St. Joseph or Madison Central, most will tell you he was the best teacher they ever had. 

Billy Avalon used the S.O.A.P. mantra as a teacher, coach and parent. “I remember him asking me that of success, organization, attitude and pride, which was the most difficult to sustain,” Michael Avalon said. “I said success, and he said, ‘No, it’s pride, pride in everything you do, doing everything the best you can do. That’s the hardest.

“And that’s what we stress in this baseball program. I don’t want them to just be the best players they can be. I want them to be the best students, the best citizens, the best sons, the best teammates they can be.”

Says Harper, the USM closer: “S.O.A.P. was part of everything we did there. I mean, it’s stuff like, if you see a piece of trash on the side of the road, don’t pass it by. Pick it up.”

His players describe Michael Avalon as “intense” as a coach. He apparently got that from his father, too.

Michael (left) and his father Billy Avalon.

“This will tell you how intense my dad was,” Michael Avalon says. “Once, when he was coaching his girls basketball team, he broke a finger calling a timeout.”

He did what?

“Really, he broke his own finger calling a timeout,” Avalon says, chuckling. “When he made the ’T’ sign with his hands, he slammed his fingers on one hand into the other hand too hard. I’m telling you, he was intense.

“At the same time, he was a man who would do anything he could to help anybody he encountered. Not just his students or his players, but somebody he just met on the side of the road.”

Billy Avalon, friends say, was intensely proud of Michael’s coaching success. He made every game he could make. He was there for all the state and region championships his son’s teams won at Pearl River. He was in Enid, Okla., in 2019 when the Wildcats were eliminated from the national championship tournament.

Last July, Billy and Michael were having one of their typically brief daily phone conversations when Billy said, “You know what you gotta do next season?”

“What?” Michael said.

Said Billy, “You gotta go back to Enid and win the whole damned thing.” 

A couple days later, Billy Avalon, 72, was killed in an automobile .

This season, as Pearl River won 45 games and ranked at or near the top of national polls, Michael missed his father terribly — at least partly because he knew how much Billy would have enjoyed the success.

Billy missed the Region 23 championship. He missed his son’s team ascending to No. 1 in the national polls. He missed them winning three straight games at Enid to reach the three-game national championship series. He missed the ultimate victory.

Or did he?

Pearl River was leading the championship game 7-2 going into the ninth inning. On the P.A. system, the recording of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” blared. Besides Proust, Dickens, Tolstoy and Joyce, Billy Avalon loved Springsteen. “Glory Days” was his favorite song.

Says Michael Avalon, “When Glory Days came on, I knew dad was there, knew he was watching. You couldn’t even make that up.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

28 cities opted out of medical marijuana


At least 28 cities have opted out of medical marijuana, but the state is not keeping track

Editor’s note: A full list of cities and counties that opted out are included at the bottom of this story.

At least 28 cities and a dozen counties completely opted out of Mississippi’s program by the May 3 deadline, but the state’s health department isn’t keeping an official list of all the municipalities restricting businesses.  

It is also unclear if the Department of Revenue, the other state agency charged with running and overseeing the program, has any sort of official list of local governments who don’t want to participate. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publishing.

Both agencies will soon be accepting applications to administer licenses for the state’s long-awaited medical marijuana program. 

The does have an optional verification form for municipalities on its website, but in a statement MSDH said “there is no mandate for local governments to report to us that they are opting out.” The department also said it does not have a comprehensive list. 

As a result, the most complete list showing which areas have opted out of the program was put together by the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association, a business and advocate group. Their list shows cities around Jackson and counties in the Delta choosing not to allow dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities to open in their areas. 

Ken Newburger, the director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said the law itself didn’t include a directive for municipalities to report. At the same time, the lack of an official list at this point shouldn’t embolden anyone to attempt to get around the system when it’s time to put in applications, he said. 

“If you try to open a dispensary in a city that has opted out, the local officials have every power to 1. Stop you and 2. Report you to the state,” Newburger said. 

There has been some confusion in the week after the opt-out deadline. Flowood, for example, voted to opt out of all three categories the law allows cities to have a say in: distribution, cultivation, and processing products. Yet, some thought the city must have opted in because it will have a testing facility.

But testing facilities aren’t one of the categories municipalities can control – so the city’s medical marijuana status won’t affect the testing facility slated to open there.  

READ MORE: As Mississippi cities opt out of medical marijuana, business hopefuls shut out

Each county’s decision to opt out only covers its unincorporated areas, meaning some cities within opt-out counties are still able to have businesses in the program. Patients who live in opt-out areas can still possess and take medical marijuana. 

The trade association is working with advocates and entrepreneurs in opt-out areas to sign petitions that would trigger a special election over the matter. Local governments that opted out also have the choice to opt back in at any time.

Those that didn’t opt out by the May 3 deadline, however, don’t have any flexibility.

Beginning in June, the health department says it plans to begin accepting online applications for licenses for patients, medical practitioners, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, testing facilities, waste disposal businesses and transportation businesses. 

The Department of Revenue is responsible for licensing dispensaries and will start accepting applications in July. The agency now has waiver forms available that allow potential businesses to get permission from schools or churches to operate if they’re less than 1,000 feet away but no closer than 500 feet. 

Without a waiver, dispensaries must be at least 1,000 feet away. The law also doesn’t allow dispensaries to be within 1,500 feet of each other. 

READ MORE: New medical marijuana law draws millions in Mississippi investment

Melvin Robinson III, the spokesman for the trade association, said so far the early stages of the program and its rules are rolling out as expected. 

“Everyone is excited as it gets closer to the date,” Robinson said.

Given the interest, Robinson said he won’t be surprised if the agencies handling licensing wind up hitting a backlog in applications. He expects their websites to be swamped once they start accepting online applications this summer.  

Newberger said the health department is using a portal for applications that has been used and tested in other states. He, too, expected an application rush.

“Not everyone who applies is going to get one,” he said. 

The Department of Health has said it plans on a 30-day approval period for its business and physician related licenses and a five-day period for patients. 

Cities that opted out of dispensaries and cultivation/processing

  • Amory
  • Belmont
  • Brandon
  • Booneville
  • Caledonia
  • Carrollton
  • Clinton
  • D’Iberville
  • Ecru
  • Flora
  • Gluckstad
  • Greenwood
  • Horn Lake
  • Kilmichael
  • Lucedale
  • Madison
  • New Albany
  • Noxapater 
  • Pontotoc
  • Ridgeland
  • Southaven 
  • Sumrall
  • Tishomingo 
  • Vaiden 

Cities that don’t allow dispensaries but do allow cultivation and processing

  • Winona 
  • North Carrollton

Counties that opted out of dispensaries and cultivation/processing (only applies to unincorporated areas)

  • Carroll County
  • Leflore County
  • Lincoln County
  • Newton County
  • Neshoba County
  • Pearl River County
  • Pontotoc County
  • Tippah County
  • Union County
  • Choctaw County
  • Lauderdale County

Counties that don’t allow dispensaries but do allow cultivation/processing (only applies to unincorporated areas) 

  • Jones County
  • Madison County

Clarification 5/11/22: This story has been updated to show Madison County has opted out of dispensaries but does allow cultivation.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Graduation season: A list of graduation dates across the Coast


www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-05-06 07:40:14

Graduation season is upon us.

Pearl River Community College graduated its 2022 class today in with ceremonies for career technical education, allied health and nursing in the morning and associates in arts degree candidates in the afternoon.

High schools get started next week with graduations, as well as USM Gulf Park and MGCCC.

Here is a list of the dates and locations of those graduations. Check with the…

Source link

Scholarship aims to send Mississippi physicians to rural areas


Mississippi needs hundreds of doctors. This scholarship program is ‘growing our own physicians.’

When Dr. Jonathan Buchanan moved home to practice family medicine in Carthage in 2017, he was the first physician to come back to Leake County in 26 years.

Many residents had avoided going to the doctor unless it was “dire straits,” Buchanan said. They drove to Jackson or Meridian if they had to. Elderly patients would pay for someone else to take them. 

The community was glad to see him.

“It was absolutely an amazing welcome,” he said. “My parents still live there, like a lot of people I grew up with, who raised me or taught me, those kinds of things. To be gone for a while for college, medical school, residency, and then come back, it was very exciting.”

Buchanan is one of the 55 practicing alumni of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. The scholarship launched with 10 awardees in 2008, aiming to tackle the state’s shortage of medical providers, one rural doctor at a time. 

Half of all Mississippians live in medically underserved counties, where there are more than 2,000 people for every primary care physician. In four counties – Benton, Carroll, Kemper, and Tallahatchie – there were no such doctors at all as of 2021, according to the health department’s Primary Care Needs Assessment. To close the gap, the state needs 323 more primary care physicians in underserved areas. 

Just shy of 90% of program alumni who have completed their service requirement are still practicing in Mississippi. And the scholarship is still ramping up. Behind the 55 alumni  are 64 people in residency, 64 in medical school, and 67 still completing their bachelor’s degrees. 

“It takes a long time to grow a doctor– a minimum of nine years,” said Wahnee Sherman, executive director of the scholarship program. 

The program awarded 65 scholarships this year, spread across four years of medical school. Recipients are required to spend one year practicing in Mississippi for every year they take the money.

Sophomores in college can apply to join the program’s two-year “nurturing phase.” They get academic support, Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation and guidance on applying to medical school. If they maintain their grades and score well on the MCAT, they can earn admittance to the or the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (WCUCOM), with annual funding of $35,000. (Current or admitted medical students who didn’t participate in the undergraduate program can also apply for the scholarship.)

The undergraduates participate in “medical encounters,” where they learn about the profession. On Monday, about 20 of them traveled to William Carey for a day of classes. Most scholarship recipients study at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, but a handful each year enroll at WCUCOM, which was founded about a decade ago with a focus on training primary care physicians

Christian Hollis and a University of Mississippi classmate, Taylor Lampkin, stood in a small exam room on Monday morning. Both wore white lab coats embroidered with the motto of the scholarship program in green: “Growing our own physicians.”

Hollis was born with a heart condition. About twice a year, his family made the two-hour round-trip drive from his home in Morton to Jackson so Hollins could see his heart doctors. The experience showed him how geography can become a burden and barrier to patients in need of care. 

Now a junior, Hollis dreams of practicing medicine close to home. He also wants to own a farm like his grandfather, who keeps chickens, cows and donkeys.

“I still go out there now,” he said of his grandfather’s farm. “I want a lot of land and to put animals on it. You can’t do that in, like, California or a big city.”

Hollis and Lampkin’s patient – an artificially intelligent knee joint – lay on the table between them. Dr. John Gaudet, a longtime Hattiesburg pediatrician and now a full-time instructor at the school, showed them how to palpate the knee and insert a needle into the joint to withdraw fluid.

It reminded Hollis of the time his mother had gone to the doctor with a knee swollen with fluid. 

“I saw the doctor do what we just did,” he said. 

Dr. John Gaudet, center, shows undergraduate students Kayla Redmond, left, and Andrea Milton how to properly administer joint injections during the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program Medical Encounter workshop at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., Monday, April 11, 2022.

Mississippi ranks 49th for number in the primary care physicians per capita, behind only Utah, according to a 2021 report on the physician workforce by the Association of American Medical Colleges

There’s both a national and local explanation for this trend. First, around the country, specialists are better paid. On average, they earn about $150,000 more than primary care doctors. 

Dr. Italo Subbarao, the dean at WCUCOM, said specialty care, like neurology and plastic surgery, is “what’s glamorized in medicine.” 

“We try to show people the power of what a family doctor can do,” he said. 

The school is ranked number one in the country for the percentage of graduates who practice in rural areas. (UMMC ranks third.)

Second, people with higher education tend to leave Mississippi. In 2020, only half of recent graduates of public universities were working in the state, according to a recent study by the state auditor. 

Steven Smith, a second-year student at WCUCOM, grew up in Terry. His parents were both volunteer firefighters, and as a kid he went with them to car wrecks and fires because they didn’t have a babysitter. 

He would play with hoses on the firetruck, and when his parents were done working he would ask them what happened to the people after the ambulance took them away. They told him the people went to the doctor, who made them better.

“Well, if the doctor is who makes ‘em better, that’s what I want to do,” Smith thought. He has never really considered leaving Mississippi, but he knows many people with his education do. 

“A lot of people use that as their way out,” he said. 

“We’re doing the opposite,” said his classmate and fellow scholarship recipient, Ti Smith, from Okolona. 

Steven Carter, associate director of the scholarship program, said the pandemic highlighted the importance of family doctors rooted in their communities. While state leaders like health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs became the highly visible face of Mississippi’s pandemic response, scholarship alumni were intubating patients in their rural hospitals’ tiny ICUs, then rushing to interviews with the local TV station to share public health guidance.

During the pandemic, Buchanan saw patients at the clinic and did hospital rounds, too. He advocated for masking and offered telehealth services. After the vaccines became available, Buchanan started conversations about them whenever he saw a patient.

“My patients trust me with their medical care,” he said. “They trust that I know what’s most up to date and available and what’s been proven versus what’s not. A lot of patients did not even have the thought of vaccination until they had a visit with me to go into detail. They saw how adamant I was about vaccination, that they felt good about receiving it.”

Mississippi’s sheer need for physicians is daunting. It would take hundreds of new doctors to fill the gap. Does one make a difference? 

Sherman believes the stories of Buchanan and his fellow alumni make the answer clear. 

“When you go into these communities that haven’t had a new doctor in 20, 25 years, you see that impact immediately,” she said. 

Dr. John Mitchell gives a tutorial on intubation during the department of family medicine procedure workshop, as a part of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program Medical Encounter at William Carey University.
Dr. Jim Mitchell gives a tutorial on intubation during the department of family medicine procedure workshop, as a part of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program Medical Encounter at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., Monday, April 11, 2022.

When talking to Mississippi students and alumni involved in the scholarship program, the state’s data on brain drain seems perplexing; no one seems to have given much thought to leaving. 

“I always wanted to stay in Mississippi after I graduated,” said Kayla Redmond, a junior at Mississippi University of Women. “I’m a country girl. I’ve traveled out of state. It’s not hospitable.”

Most of the participants are from rural areas themselves. And though they’re from all over the state, they share the perspective that the people in their communities deserve the best the country can offer. 

In between activities Monday, Khadeejah Franklin, a University of Mississippi junior from Vancleave, and Lauren Sumrall, a Mississippi College junior whose parents live in and Purvis, talked about their goals. Franklin would like to practice back home, so people in Vancleave don’t have to travel so far for care. Sumrall wants to open labor and delivery clinics serving rural communities. 

“I don’t feel like anybody should have to drive 45 minutes in labor,” she said. “Where you live should not determine—”

“The level of care you receive,” Franklin nodded.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Go to Top