Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Neighorhood group meets with MDMH over group homes

Senator Will Longwitz (R-Xanadu) posted the following  statement on Facebook yesterday:


I know many of you are concerned about the sudden appearance of group recovery homes (halfway houses) in Northeast Jackson. I am too. So are my family members who live in the neighborhood.
Today, at my request the Executive Director of the MS Department of Mental Health and her staff came to the Capitol to discuss their role in these Oxford Houses. I was joined by several attorneys from the surrounding neighborhood including Crymes M. Pittman, Rick Davis, Suzanne Sharpe and Robert Wise, and others including City Councilman Ashby Foote. Rep. Bill Denny could not attend, but has been briefed and continues to work closely with us on this issue.

Frankly, there were more questions than answers but you need to know that we are pressing hard for answers. We need to know how this could happen without notice or warning and what these facilities are doing to make sure that surrounding families are protected.

Residents need confidence that their children and families are safe in the neighborhoods.
There are still a lot more questions – especially about the state’s role in these facilities. Rest assured that we are searching for information and will gather a “town hall” soon to bring everyone up to speed. Until then, please watch this space. I hope to have more information by the end of the week.
We will share all information as soon as we can. Working together, we can get to the bottom of this and protect neighborhoods and families. You are welcome to email me directly at will@willlongwitz.com - Will

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sen. Longwitz! I know your aunt & uncle and we are all glad you have stepped up on this. Thank you to Ashby Foote and the other attorneys. Let us know when and where you need us.

Anonymous said...

I think Will would make a GREAT successor to Tate. He is always making sure to keep people informed of what he's doing.

Anonymous said...

Xanadu
I thought he lived next to Moak?

Anonymous said...

I thought Xanadu (Rankin County) was Josh Harkins.

Anonymous said...

Stay on this track with MDMH.

Anonymous said...

How did the state Department of Health choose Oxford House? Time for some contracts to be revealed.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Thanks for the comment, Will. I mean, uh, @9:04. *wink*

Anonymous said...

Did anyone read the FB post? It sure took him a lot of words to say "We weren't able to accomplish anything, but as long as it's an election year why not have a few meetings?"

Anonymous said...

As much as he would love to be able to resolve this, there is likely nothing Will can do about it. If you want the Oxford House gone, then see the solution reached by a New Jersey neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Aren't these houses privately funded? I don't see where the legislature can do much. Seems more like a zoning issue than a mental health issue.

Anonymous said...

Where is Dorsey Carson on this? He's a lawyer and fancies himself a viable candidate in Northeast Jackson. Where does he stand on this?

Anonymous said...

"If you want the Oxford House gone, then see the solution reached by a New Jersey neighborhood. "

Old post - HINT: it involved a match.

"Aren't these houses privately funded? "

Nope - ultimately the funding comes from a federal grant. Thad needs to zero it out of the next budget. Bleeding hearts all over the country will scream but neighborhoods that have been devalued by this chicanery will rejoice all over the country.

Anonymous said...

The funding and contracts are run through MS Dept of Mental Health. It's the right thing to do to follow the trail of money and contracts. The legislature can do something about this. The Governor's office should too.

Anonymous said...

If State dollars were used to fund this crap let's find out where they came from and hold the responsible parties accountable.

Anonymous said...

10:23, they aren't privately funded. The "rent" money comes from the state of Mississippi! The slumlords rent to the tenants, and the rent is paid by the state! Disrupt those payments, and the whole house of cards falls down. You think those tenants would willingly pay $500 a month each to live 2 to a room and 7 to a house? No! 2 or 3 of them would pool their money and go rent a bigger place somewhere else. The reason they are there is because someone else is paying.

Anonymous said...

... then see the solution reached by a New Jersey neighborhood.

Link?

Anonymous said...

The people of NE Jackson told Dorsey they didn't want him helping, TWICE. He's under no obligation to get involved nor offer an opinion.

Anonymous said...

Whole lot of words to say "nothing we can do."

Anonymous said...

This home will be alcohol and drug free. I bet you can't say that about a majority of the homes in this neighborhood. Cold hearted bastards.

Anonymous said...

10:34, how are MS taxpayers giving money to the resident? Unless they work for the state or are on welfare the state isn't involved. The legislature can't do anything to stop this, but Longwitz will probably milk it for as long as he can.

Anonymous said...

What constitutes a family under Jackson zoning? There are clear rules that prevent a fraternity from being labeled a family. If it is determined that 7 unrelated adults living together in this environment does not constitute a family under the description in the code, then they are indeed in violation of the code.

Anonymous said...

OxfordHouse

Read the link above.

Robert P. Wise said...

11:19
Will Longwitz is still in the process of posing questions to MDMH for us, so the process of finding out details remains ongoing. Patience please. Remember, over on NSide we did not know about this until about a week ago.

Anonymous said...

11:20, first sentence....prove it.

Anonymous said...

11:49 - you demonstrate your complete ignorance of how money moves from the federal to the state and into the hands of unscrupulous organizations and individuals.

The FBI exposed a HUGE NO BID CONTRACT scandal going on throughout Mississippi state government agencies back in December. Epps and McCroy are going to jail. They have already pleaded guilty. Sentenced in June. The Governor has setup a Task Force to Investigate. This issue with MDMH and OH would be an excellent candidate for the Task Force to investigate. MDMH is part of no bid contract scam. Though not the largest agency involved in NO BID contracts, MDMH is absolutely doing it. And our neighborhood is suffering because of their actions.

The excuse all of these agencies use is "no one else applied or submitted a proposal". No sh^$ they didn't. No one was even told there was a solicitation or contract opportunity!! Hard to bid with they keep it secret they are handing out contracts. Cronyism at its best. What federal agency allows a "Agecny or Department Head" to just award a no bid contract without HUGE justification which are usually tied to an emergency situation. And even then there are critical oversight requirements.

Miss State Agencies are operating in a 1940s domain. No oversight, no controls, a total FREE FOR ALL.


These state agencies doing no bid contracts are much like a running club that decides to hold a race. One runner is told about the race and then gets awarded a BLUE RIBBON. When other runners and spectators find out a race was held, the race organizers claim, "only one runner showed up". What were we to do?

CLOWNS!

Anonymous said...

Is alcohol against the law 11:20 AM?

Anonymous said...

@11:20 - I will tell you how cold-hearted a bastard I am and how I really feel about having a sober living house next door when I get a few drinks in me tonight.

Anonymous said...

We need to get Bennie Thompson on this.He will take care of us. He get the Justice department to investigate HUD.

Anonymous said...

Approx. 20 years ago, a woman purchased the house on the northeast corner of Council Circle and State to house (I think) mentally disabled people. The City shut her down. She sued and won.

Anonymous said...

12:11, your little rant is nice, but you still didn't answer the question. Who is getting MDMH money? The residents of the house? Supposedly they all have jobs. The landlord? Supposedly she bought the houses and is getting rent money from the residents. Where exactly is the state involved in this?

Anonymous said...

A young professional stepped up and presented the Stephens with a written offer to buy the home. Offer was good deal more than they paid Mr Rogers. A local attorney even offered to help the Stephens deal with the legal issues associated with OH.
A simple solution to try to make this go away.
Anna Fiser Stephens rejected the offers.

Anonymous said...

The 1-ton pick-up at Forest Park house does not move. It looks like a work truck but never leaves the drive-way. So my question is, "who is paying the rent?" I have to leave my house to make money.

Anonymous said...

This is Jim Hood's doing. His negotiations on behalf of MDMH with DOJ yielded more "community" housing options. Of all the agencies, DMH is the most out of line.

Anonymous said...

The MDMH money should be going to local established nonprofit organizations like The McCoy House. They serve individuals with addiction illnesses in our communities. They have a local board that governs them. They run their organization in a transparent manner and encourage outreach and communication with the community.

Oxford House is a malcontent organization that adores media attention more than helping the people suffering from addiction. That is why they have more attorneys than staffers dedicated to program services.

Contact your state level elected officials to intervene with MDMH. OH is banking on everyone giving up. MDMH has guaranteed them funding, so no reason for them to go away.

90% of OH revenue comes from Federal and State grants. They are not an organization that is supported by philanthropic contributions, they are supported by taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Sen. Longwitz, and to the others who are working on this issue. I'm grateful someone is willing to try to unravel this disaster, and I don't see anyone else stepping up. It's not going to be an easy fix, so those of you complaining about it not be solved in the first meeting need to lighten up. At least there is a group making an effort to resolve this problem.

Anonymous said...

Sen Barbara Mikulski from Maryland (one time chair of the Senate appropriations committee)has been a huge supporter of Oxford House. She has funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into their coffers throughout her Senate career. I would go so far as to say that Oxford House has been a pet project of hers. She is retiring. Hopefully whoever takes over her seat will not be so diligent in filling the Oxford House purse.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Harvey Fiser (Anna F. Stephens's uncle) just got done lecturing his class at Millsaps on "reasonable accommodation for the handicapped...." Really, Fiser? This relates to Business Law how? Maybe because your niece and her husband have turned Oxford House into their cash cow at the expense of others. Go Majors!

Anonymous said...

Ten years ago there was a group of guys out of rehab renting a house together while they spent the next year in low stress jobs. It was in the first block of Northside east of Ridgewood. I only knew about it because I met one of them. I fail to see what the big deal is.

Anonymous said...

6:10 I wonder if the Fisers are the root of this whole thing?

Anonymous said...

7:03, There is no reason to think not.

1) What rich father has not bankrolled his daughter (barring any bad blood, which is obviously not the case here...he has stood by his daughter every step of the way).

2) The money has to be coming from somewhere. The girl owns several properties. She is a JA Volleyball Coach, people. Get real. Do the math.

Anonymous said...

Figures some idiots from Millsaps would somehow be involved in this fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Still haven't heard even a hint of how the Department of Mental Health has anything to do with this. What MDMH money? Come on, people, wake up and smell the coffee. It's a zoning issue, and Oxford House will win because a majority of the city council could care less how many recovering addicts live in northeast Jackson. You all need to get ready to make peace with your new neighbors.

Anonymous said...

8:33pm, you idiot. This fits perfectly within the R-1 permitted use list, which includes group homes or care facilities for the disabled (up to 6). This is in no way a zoning issue. Any number above that (and below 12) would only require a special use permit, which they will get. Thank you, Congress. Please stop spreading the zoning argument fallacy.

The Dept of Mental Health is the last fingerprint on this money before it gets into the Stephens's freshly manicured hands. This is the way to get the same thing from happening to your neighborhood (or probably your mom's neighborhood in which you live)

Robert Wise said...

The MDMH applies for and administers federal block grants that support the activities of OH.

Anonymous said...

7:57pm, as to your second point, she's about as good at that as she is in her investment decisions.

Anonymous said...

For those that cannot seem to follow links (8:33 PM) I am going to make it simple for you - straight from the MDMH website in their own words:

• OXFORD HOUSES: Since 2013, Mississippi has opened 12 Oxford Houses with a total of 76 beds in the following cities: Gulfport, Biloxi, and Jackson. Seven Oxford Houses are for men, four for women, and one for women and children. DMH expects eight more Oxford Houses will be opened by December 2015 using funds provided by the federal CABHI grant. An Oxford House is a self- run, self-supported recovery house to provide an opportunity for every recovering individual to learn a clean and sober way to live.

Here is the link if you care to look without being spoon-fed: http://www.dmh.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Progress-Update-Flyer.pdf

Page two of the brag sheet if you cannot read well - 4 bullets down. Got it? Good.

Anonymous said...

11:20 - yes I am a cold-hearted bastard and pitiless as well. And getting colder by the day. Thanks for the compliment!

ADA vs HUD said...

6:10; Cute, but consideration of reasonable accommodation is a legal term defined in (and required by) the ADA and relates to job accommodation, not housing.

Anonymous said...

8:33, federal tax dollars are given to the state in the form of a block grant. The state contracts with Mississippi Home Corporation to administer the grant money. MHC is self supporting - no tax dollars used, even for administration - with a nine person board and legislative oversight coming from the PEER committee. My guess is that Stephens got either a grant for the down payment or a low interest loan from MHC for the purchase of the homes. 11:06 is partially right - DMH is in the loop, but all they can do is take the money from the block grant and hand it over to MHC. Senator Longwitz, as pure as his intentions may be, doesn't have the stroke to take on MHC.

Anonymous said...

Oxford House has been around for 40 years and has 1,824 houses across the country, according to their 2014 annual report. Think they haven't run into angry neighbors before? 8:33 is right - y'all are getting new neighbors.

Anonymous said...

8 AM - Looks like MS Hope Corp is receiving $ http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2015/pdf/HB/1500-1599/HB1563SG.pdf

Due back from the Governor April 23.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Looks like Longwitz and 51 of his colleagues voted to send over $2 million in state taxpayer money to MHC. That specific enough for you, 8:33?

Anonymous said...

"Sen Barbara Mikulski from Maryland (one time chair of the Senate appropriations committee)has been a huge supporter of Oxford House. She has funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into their coffers throughout her Senate career. I would go so far as to say that Oxford House has been a pet project of hers. She is retiring. Hopefully whoever takes over her seat will not be so diligent in filling the Oxford House purse. "

Uh, isn't that our own Sen. Thad Cochran? Why hasn't anyone contacted him.

Anonymous said...

9:58, that has to be a mistake. Surely Senator Longwitz wouldn't vote for something without knowing whether it had an impact on the people of his district. Guess the Senate was in "pass it so we can see what's in it" mode that day.

Anonymous said...

The MS Department of Mental Health pursued Oxford House as a knee-jerk reaction to the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the State of Mississippi for inadequate care under the ADA. MDMH needed bullet-point items to show the DOJ that they were trying to improve care for disabled individuals.

Oxford House was low hanging fruit since it required no oversight or resources of the Department of Mental Health. Jim Hood handled the settlement for the State of Mississippi and was happy to show "progress" towards improving care.

See links here:
http://www.dmh.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Progress-Update-on-Mississippis-Public-Mental-Health-System1.pdf

And here:
http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/miss_findletter_12-22-11.pdf

Unfortunately, the budget was passed last Thursday and this has been funded for the current fiscal year.

Please note that the Department of Mental Health board is appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate.

Here is a link to the current board members:

http://www.dmh.ms.gov/who-we-are/board-of-mental-health/

Contact your statewide elected officials or any members of the MDMH board that you may know.

Anonymous said...

TAC out of Boston was awarded a $300,000 contract to provide their recommendations to MDMH. Who specifically hired TAC and what was the selection process?

Why do we have a board comprised mainly of non-mental health practitioners governing the MDMH? Can they be relied on to know what is good science and what is not? Mental health issues are complicated and diverse. The statute needs to be changed.

Note the MDMH board meetings are open to the public and are held every third Thursday of the month. The next one is next week.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at how almost every commenter on this string has, without hesitation, attacked the individuals who are involved in this housing issue.

I don't support or oppose Oxford House; having said that, I'm sure that there are many better local options with whom the Fisers might have chosen to work.

But, it doesn't shock me at all that the good posters here, most of whom proudly beat their chest professing their Christianity, absolutely spew hateful anonymous comments against the Fisers.

It's telling that the brand of Christianity practiced by most of the good ol' bible thumpers posting here is primarily of the "show up and look good" variety as opposed to actually living and practicing the word of Jesus. Surely, those of you who are posting these statements and claim to be Christian cannot square your hateful comments against a neighbor with your religious beliefs, regardless of your perception of their conduct.

You can vigorously advocate for your position against this house without being awful humans and acting directly in opposition to the gospel that Jesus commands you follow.

Tellingly, the thin veil of Christianity is punctured when the hateful comments against the extended family start getting thrown around. In sad Mississippi tradition, the only people that her citizens abhor more than the poor are the wealthy. As is obvious from the comments in this thread (as well as many others on this blog over the last decade), you guys enjoy nothing more than a dose of schadenfreude.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:29 So that we don't have to belabor this point anymore, everyone that is involved with this, either through the house, neighborhood or all the posters on this blog are human and sinners.

Let's focus on improving the delivery of mental health services to residents in our state? If nothing else, this incident has brought to light how dreadful mental health care services are in our state. Our own MDMH thought that the best solution was take these people and put them in a "program" that is completely unregulated, unmonitored and provides no support services at all. They stack these people 7-12 deep in a home and walk away. Job done. This is an abomination.

Anonymous said...

Contact Governor Bryant and ask him to veto House Bill 1563 that funds this "program". It is on his desk now!

http://www.governorbryant.com/contact/

Anonymous said...

Pious 12:29 - Wants to judge and rebuke others (the community) who she thinks unfairly judges others (OH & landlord). Pious prick indeed.

Anonymous said...

Over 23.5 million Americans are in recovery please watch the movie The Anonymous People and educate before you discriminate

Anonymous said...

If the Oxford House business model were transparent, they wouldn't do this in the middle of the night. They would be open about who is living there and how it works. They would be open about how many people live in the house, how much they are making off of these people, how or if they "help" them with their recovery. I don't see any of this, and so people are forced to ask questions to get answers.
Keep asking questions!

Anonymous said...

Please read the orange papers that debunks AA http://www.orange-papers.org/

Lemme Splain said...

12:29; I can't understand why you are amazed. When people come up with stupid ideas whose implementation might visit harm upon others, it is quite typical to attack them and their ideas.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Will!!! #GrandstanderOfTheYear

How long will it be before he starts holding these meetings at the Capitol so he can get a per diem???

Anonymous said...

Any update from Longwitz? He said he would have more information for us by the end of the week, didn't he? Hmm. Maybe he discovered that he voted for the bill that DMH is using to fund Oxford Houses across the state. Nice...

David Molloy said...

Senator Longwitz is taking on a huge challenge. This issue is about doing the right thing against an entrenched and out-of-state interest. I thank him for his time and I for one am glad to give him more if he needs it. Because the pace of information this page on Facebook seems like a good start to coordinating info: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sunlight-for-Oxford-House-Mississippi/1419886228318543

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