MANDEVILLE, La. -- The closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital for mental health in Mandeville may be a certainty, but that's not stopping Northshore leaders from finding a way around it.
Their biggest concern is mental health services for the rest of the community after the doors begin shutting in October. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is shutting down operations at the facility as part of a plan to deal with the elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid money.
Right now, the future of the hospital includes sending patients to three other facilities across the state, or private facilities in the New Orleans and Northshore areas. No direction has been determined for outpatient services provided by outside organizations for patients at the hospital, and the rest of the community.
When the state refused to budge on that plan this week, St. Tammany Parish leaders started a meeting of the minds.
"That's a black cloud for us and we're trying to find where the silver lining is and we're hoping the silver lining will be, as a community, we can come together and think of something to do with that facility," said state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville.
One of the ideas on the table is the parish stepping in with its own money to help keep outpatient services in the facility.
"We have a public health millage in this parish and we're just trying to see what we can work with that, along with other public, private partnerships," said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister
The main goal of this effort is to maintain services, like the Alcohol and Drug Unit and group homes for adults and children. DHH says it's on board with alternatives.
"If the local government and local leaders have plans that are innovative, that would meet the needs of those citizens, we're certainly willing to discuss that and are happy that they're coming up with some ideas that would do that," said DHH Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert.
Organizations that work out of the campus say it's a huge weight off of their shoulders to hear someone is on their side.
"For them to agree to help us is truly going to keep our organization alive and give us the ability to continue to help individuals that need it in the community," said Nick Richard, executive director of National Alliance for Mental Illness-St. Tammany.
Leaders want the public to know they're determined to save something.
"We're going to take it on, we are, in your words, very apt, hell bent, because we're going to find a way," Brister said.
Brister is also working in ideas she returned from Washington, D.C. with on Thursday and plans to meet on those ideas again next week.
As for the hundreds of jobs at the hospital, the state plans to transfer some of the workers with the patients. Any private-public partnership developed will require the rest of the employees to be considered first for new hires.