Controversial inpatient care center for children, teens directed to ‘immediately cease operations,’ Mississippi mayor says

Published 4:27 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

A new Mississippi inpatient care center for children and adolescents has been directed to “immediately cease operations” after the officials investigated its business license, which had been erroneously issued for a daycare service, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said on Friday.

Since early January, the former orphanage at 806. N. Union St. has been operating as a crisis stabilization unit for children and adolescents, according to Tina Bruce of Bruce Professional Counseling Services.

The 28-bed center provides inpatient treatment for children and adolescents ages 6 to 18 living with mental health difficulties who are also in the custody of Children Protective Services.

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In July 2022, City of Natchez privilege license No. S01064 was issued to Bruce Professional Services for a “daycare service” at the 806 N. Union St. property, which Attorney Bryan Callaway has determined is not the correct license type, Gibson said.

“Our former director of planning did approve a permit for Dr. Bruce to operate a daycare at that location. However, the city was not aware that an inpatient facility for children and adolescents was in operation until we received complaints from citizens in that area and read about it the local paper,” he said. “The property where this facility is located is zoned R-3 (Mixed Density Residential) and this type of facility is unfortunately not permitted in this historic residential zone. Dr. Bruce will have to request that the property be rezoned if she desires to continue operating this inpatient facility at that location.”

Gibson said Callaway sent a letter Thursday afternoon to Bruce requesting that the crisis center close.

Bruce could not be reached for comment on Friday morning.

“Hopefully, she can seek another location or request to have the property rezoned,” Gibson said. “Obviously, there’s a legal process to be followed and we have to follow it. We do value the service that Dr. Bruce provides to our community. We do recognize that a service of this type is definitely needed and understand the mental health issues occurring not just here in Natchez but in many places.”

While the center has not obtained proper licensure from the city, it has obtained at least partial licensure from the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Director of Planning and Communications Adam Moore confirmed.

“Bruce Professional Counseling Services is fully certified to provide Core Services for Adult Mental Health and Children/Youth Mental Health,” Moore said. “They were initially certified for Crisis Residential Services for children/youth in Natchez last June, and their policies and procedures have been reviewed and met all (Department of Mental Health) health and safety requirements. They will be fully certified following a DMH review of documentation related to personnel and client records and, if needed, any Plan of Compliance is accepted by DMH.”

Mississippi statute gives the DMH authority to supervise, coordinate, and establish standards related to mental health and the provision of mental health services.

“A fully-certified provider has completed an Interested Provider Orientation, submitted the applicable application, provisioned services, and is in compliance with the completed health and safety site visit conducted by the DMH Division of Certification,” Moore explained.

“That application includes, among other things, an organizational chart that identifies agency leadership, evidence of professional licensure or official transcripts that verify educational requirements for agency leadership, policies and procedures that address DMH Operational Standards, and proposed budget and documentation of three months of operating expenses.”

Shortly after the crisis center opened, the neighboring community questioned why they were not notified about the center.

Frankie Legaux, director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Natchez, explained how the privilege license obtained by Bruce Professional Counseling Service was able to fly under the radar.

Had the crises center been a daycare service, the property would not have required rezoning.

Rezoning property is a five-step process that includes: an application to the planning commission; a public hearing before the planning commission; a recommendation from that commission to the Board of Aldermen; another public hearing before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen; then a final decision on the request issued by the Board of Alderman.

With each public hearing, parties interested have an opportunity to be heard, whether by commenting in person at the hearing or by sending a written letter to the planning office, located upstairs at Natchez City Hall, Legaux said.