BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the Louisiana Department of Health, accusing the state of failing to provide children on Medicaid with adequate mental health services.

News outlets report SPLC filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of five children, representing 47,500 children in the state who need mental health services.

The lawsuit says children on Medicaid in Louisiana have few options when they experience a mental health crisis. Instead of ready access to nearby mental health professionals and clinics, families often have to turn to law enforcement as their only option, particularly in rural areas. That could put children through the juvenile justice system or into psychiatric institutions far from home.

The department declined to comment.

SPLC sued Mississippi in 2010 on similar grounds. That case is still processing.

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