Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans city leaders are concerned about what will happen with public safety if mental health and drug detoxification beds run out of funding.
So they've called an emergency meeting to figure out what to do.
The city is wasting no time to talk about how serious it will be if treatment of mental illness, including drug addiction, runs out of money.
"The mayor has sent a very strong letter to the state, to the governor, to LSU President Lombardi, indicating his extreme concern about how these cuts to mental health and substance abuse will impact public safety as well as people's lives," said New Orleans Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo.
"I'm telling them we're having to do less with less. Crime is our number one priority. And I know a lot of people want to call in the National Guard, but it would be a lot better to fight crime to have more probation and parole officers, or fund the DA's office, or fund indigent defenders, which are all state responsibilities, and to make sure that we fund mental health," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, at what was being described as a roll-up-your-sleeves, private meeting at City Hall, key players with the city, state, LSU, health care providers, housing officials, and the coroner's office, are meeting to come up with a solution.
"We'll do everything we can as a city to make sure they're keeping the patient in mind, because that's the ultimate goal. This is about them. This is about making sure they get service and that there's public safety," added Dr. DeSalvo.
Keep in mind that much of the crime and the homeless problem is from untreated mental illness and drugs.
"There are some folks with severe mental illness who also have a history of violence. And if they are discharged too soon or discharged not to good services, then there's the possibility that they're going to be violent on the streets," she said.
The governor says the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is working to help the problem.
"DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein has started to work with them. For example, the secretary has helped to identify working with me, has helped to approve additional revenues that are over $13 million in additional revenues. They will be able to keep them find another $8 million in saving," said Gov. Bobby Jindal.