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The Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Mississippi State Hospital (MSH) are actively expanding services to effectively address the needs of patients and stakeholders within the forensic mental health and criminal justice system. As part of this commitment, MSH is allocating resources towards the ongoing development of its inpatient services. Consequently, MSH has made the strategic decision to discontinue conducting initial (outpatient) forensic mental evaluations. By redirecting our focus, we aim to enhance the quality and efficiency of the specialized services for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. 

This change occurred on 1 November 2023.  Evaluations orders received prior to 1 November 2023 will be completed consistent with previous practices (e.g. outpatient evaluations completed at MSH or by telemedicine at no cost to counties). 

Because the Forensic Evaluation Service (FES) at MSH will no longer conduct initial evaluations of competence to proceed legally, County and Circuit Courts in Mississippi have two options when it comes to competence evaluations.

The first option, Pathway 1, involves the administrative handling of competency evaluations by the FES administrative staff at MSH.  If a court chooses to use this option, that court simply needs to submit a form order (link below) and the required documents to the FES at MSH. Once received, the FES at MSH will identify a certified evaluator and ensure timely completion of the evaluation process. The certified evaluator will be completing the report as an independent contractor, not as an employee of the State of Mississippi.  Upon completion of a competency evaluation, except for Capital Murder defendants, the county will receive the report, and the evaluator will provide an invoice to the county for services rendered, not to exceed $2000.  For Capital Murder defendants, counties should expect evaluations to approximate ~40 hours duration, depending on the questions propounded in the order, and we have established no cost limit for these evaluations.

If a court also determines an evaluation of a defendant’s mental state at the time of an alleged offense (sanity) is warranted, that court may order an evaluation using the additional form order provided below.   Using this pathway, the expense for the sanity portion of the evaluation (in all cases except Capital Murder) is not to exceed $1000 if ordered in conjunction with a competency evaluation, and not to exceed $3000 if the sanity opinion is exclusive. 

If testimony is required, the expected rate for certified psychologists is $250/hr, and the expected rate for certified psychiatrists is $300/hr.

The second option, known as Pathway 2, provides counties the flexibility to select their own evaluator, transmit the necessary documents directly to their chosen evaluator, and arrange payment for the services rendered without using DMH or MSH services.

These changes aim to provide counties with transparent, organized, and timely options for conducting forensic mental evaluations, ensuring that the evaluations are carried out efficiently and effectively while offering counties greater control over the process and financial responsibilities.

Detailed Instructions for Court Personnel:

Pathway 1: Utilizing Forensic Evaluation Services Administration at Mississippi State Hospital (MSH)

1. Court Sends Form Order to State Hospital:

   - Once a Court determines a competency evaluation is indicated and an order is created, the Court Clerk sends the competency evaluation form order to the Forensic Evaluation Service at Mississippi State Hospital (MSH) here: forensic.orders@msh.ms.gov. 

   - The required form order for evaluations to be facilitated by the Forensic Evaluation Service is available here: Competency Evaluation Order Template.

   - If a court determines a sanity evaluation is also indicated, the Court Clerk may also send the following, supplemental order:  Insanity Evaluation Order Template.

2. County Receives Forensic Identification Number (FID):

   - After reviewing the received order(s), MSH assigns a Forensic Identification Number (FID) to the case.

   - The FID will be transmitted by email to Defense Counsel, District Attorney, Sheriff, Court Clerk, and Judge.

   - The FID will serve as a unique identifier for the defendant throughout the evaluation and, if necessary, the admission process.

3. Submit Required Documents to MSH:

   - Defense counsel or court-assigned individual gathers all required documents as specified in the form order, including:

  1. A copy of the order(s) and any and all related motion(s), exhibit(s) and materials;
  2. A completed Patient Information Form (PIF) as provided by Forensic Services at Mississippi State Hospital Patient Information Form(PIF);
  3. Information concerning the alleged crime(s) and legal history, including:
    1. Discovery Materials; Indictment; name(s) of the charge(s); date(s); accounts of the alleged crime(s) including investigators' report(s); arrest report(s); any statements made by witnesses, victims, and Defendant;
    2. A copy of the Defendant's prior local arrest record and N.C.I.C. or F.B.I. Identification report;
  4. Information concerning the defendant’s mental health and medical history, including:
    1. A copy of the report and file of any psychiatric/psychological expert providing any previous forensic opinion or evaluation of the Defendant;
    2. All relevant medical/psychiatric/psychological records, and all relevant educational and Court (including Youth Court) and employment records;
  5. Proof of a completed certificate of compliance filed with the Court documenting that the available medical and criminal history records were submitted to the examining mental health expert in accordance with MRCrP 12.2(e). Attorney Attestation Form

4. MSH Assigns Certified Evaluator:

   - Once the required documents are received, MSH immediately assigns a certified evaluator to conduct the evaluation.

5. Evaluation Completed and County Invoiced:

   - Evaluations are expected to be completed and submitted within four weeks of assignment to certified evaluator.

   - Once the evaluation and report are completed, the county will be invoiced for the services rendered and the report will be provided.

  - For all charges except Capital Murder, the invoice amount will not exceed the agreed-upon limit (e.g., $2000 for competency;  $3000 for competency plus sanity). 

  - For Capital Murder evaluations, there is not a limit imposed on the invoice amount.  Counties should expect to be billed for approximately 40 hours by the psychologist or psychiatrist for evaluations involving Capital Murder defendants, depending on the questions the Court expects the expert to answer in his/her report. 

   - The report will contain the findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on the evaluation conducted.

6. Check Evaluation Progress:

   - Throughout the evaluation process, the county can check the progress by entering the Forensic Identification Number (FID) into the search tab on the Forensic Evaluation Service at MSH website Search FID.

   - This allows the county to obtain updates on the evaluation's status and any additional information available.

Pathway 2: Court-Administered Initial Competency Evaluation (No FES Involvement)

1. Identify an Evaluator:

   - A court may research and identify a qualified evaluator who is willing to conduct the mental evaluation. This could be a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in forensic evaluations.  The evaluator may also be one of the DMH Certified Evaluators available here (recommended): Evaluators List

2. Partner with the Evaluator:

   - Contact the selected evaluator and discuss the case details, including the purpose and scope of the evaluation.

   - Agree on the terms and conditions of the evaluation, including the payment arrangements, evaluation timeline, and any specific requirements.

   - Ensure that the evaluator is willing and available to undertake the evaluation within the desired timeframe.

3. Provide Documents to the Evaluator:

   - Gather and transmit relevant documents securely to the chosen evaluator, ensuring confidentiality and compliance with any privacy regulations or requirements.

   - Utilize a secure method such as encrypted email, secure file transfer, or physical delivery, depending on the evaluator's preferred mode of document submission.

   - The following are recommended documents for review by an evaluator, based on standard of care in forensic mental health:

  1. A copy of this order and any and all related motion(s), exhibit(s) and materials Competency Evaluation Order Template;
  2. Documents regarding the defendant’s competency limitations, history, and family contact information.
  3. Information concerning the alleged crime(s) and legal history, including:
    1. Discovery Materials; Indictment; name(s) of the charge(s); date(s); accounts of the alleged crime(s) including investigators' report(s); arrest report(s); any statements made by witnesses, victims, and Defendant;
    2. A copy of the Defendant's prior local arrest record and N.C.I.C. or F.B.I. Identification report;
  4. Information concerning the defendant’s mental health and medical history, including:
    1. A copy of the report and file of any psychiatric/psychological expert providing any previous forensic opinion or evaluation of the Defendant;
    2. All relevant medical/psychiatric/psychological records, and all relevant educational and Court (including Youth Court) and employment records;

4. Evaluation and Report:

   - The evaluator conducts the mental evaluation according to the agreed-upon scope and timeline.

   - During the evaluation process, the evaluator may conduct interviews, administer tests or assessments, review relevant documents, and gather other necessary information.

   - The evaluator then prepares a comprehensive report summarizing their findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on the evaluation.

5. Arrange Payment:

   - The court coordinates payment for the evaluation services with the evaluator as previously agreed upon, and a report is submitted to the court as directed.