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Baton Rouge newspaper laments shortage of mental health treatment facilities, and we can thank Bobby Jindal for that


Baton Rouge newspaper laments shortage of mental health treatment facilities, and we can thank Bobby Jindal for that

There was an interesting story in Friday’s Baton Rouge Advocate that correctly identified the problem of a growing backlog for mental health treatment for persons accused of a crime but who are deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. You can read that story here:

It’s a legitimate problem, no doubt. But the burning question, besides the problem of how are nearly 200 of these people going to receive the treatment they so desperately need, is how did we get to the current situation of having only a single forensic psychiatric facility in the state of Louisiana?

For that answer, we have Bobby Jindal to thank.

The LSU Reveille said on APRIL 16, 2015, as Jindal’s eight years in the governor’s office were winding down (and as he pursued his silly quest for the Republican presidential nomination), that his legacy “leaves out the mentally ill.” The article cited a report by the American Mental Health Counselors Association that said that in 2014, there were 18,400 mentally ill Louisianians who went without treatment.

Jindal and the Republican legislators, the article said, “trapped them within a health care coverage gap when they refused the program’s expansion.”

But going back to 2012, when Jindal was just beginning his second term, he CLOSED the Greenwell Springs Hospital which had been serving as a mental health facility. The closure was done in the name of budgetary cutbacks and cost savings.

That was in March 2012. Four months later, in July, it was announced that SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA HOSPITAL, a psychiatric facility that became somewhat famous as a stopping-off place for then-Gov. Earl Long during his 1959 historic, if not hysterical, mental breakdown, would be SHUTTING DOWN. That closure denied care for 176 patients who had to go elsewhere for treatment.

To no one’s surprise (except perhaps to Jindal, who was most likely oblivious and/or uncaring) a totally predictable SPIKE in the demand for mental health services occurred as those seeking treatment found there was no room available for them as one treatment center after another shuttered its doors as a direct result of the Jindal budget cuts.

Of course, Jindal attempted to shift the blame by DENYING that his administration requested any specific cuts to mental health or substance abuse programs at LSU Interim Hospital but the fact is $150 million was slashed from the facility’s budget, necessitating cuts. The closures of Southeast and Greenwell Springs that following that February 2012 denial belied any pious postering on Jindal’s part.

Oh, he attempted to mitigate the damage by privatizing Southeast but like everything Jindal touched, that, too, proved disastrous to mental health patients when the facility, operating under the new name Northlake Behavioral Health System, lost its Medicare eligibility just nine months into its operation as a private hospital because of serious deficiencies.

That information came courtesy of a LouisianaVoice POST way back in July 2013.

So, yesterday’s ominous revelations by The Advocate about the shortage of beds for those needing mental health treatment notwithstanding, it’s not like we weren’t warned ahead of time.

All the red flags were there for us to see but the state was apparently too infatuated with Bobby Jindal to fully comprehend what he was doing to this state.

And all the signs are indicating that we are in for more of the same for at least the next four years.

Quite frankly, I don’t see the likelihood that the new Republican administration of Jeff Landry will place a high priority on the needs of the mentally ill – especially those accused of crimes.

It’s just not in the cards for this cadre to exhibit compassion for anyone but those who can help the party with their checkbooks. They would much rather attack such hot – but safe – issues as libraries and something called woke.

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