MANDEVILLE, La. A deal was finalized Monday to keep the nearly shuttered Southeast Louisiana Hospital open.
Meridian Behavioral Health Services will take over control of the mental health services at the facility at the beginning of 2013, while St. Tammany Parish will oversee the property.
According to officials from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Meridian will run 58 inpatient beds at the Northshore site.
Forty two will be for youth, while 16 beds will be for adult patients. Outpatient services on the campus currently will stay put, including the National Alliance for Mental Illness and the Methodist Children's Home for abused kids.
In July, the state made plans to close the hospital in Mandeville, 'in response to Congress sharply reducing Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding for the Medicaid program.'
The announcement Monday comes after residents and some officials loudly protested the possible closure of the hospital earlier this year.
Eyewitness News broke the story that a deal was in the works to keep the hospital open three weeks ago.
DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein said, 'We're sharing good news, good for the community, good for the state.'
'Now it's on us to do our part and provide services that everybody in this room and out of this room deserve,' said Meridian CEO Wesley Mason.
That matters most to Janice Sapier, whose daughter left Southeast in October as part of the state's phase down, and is in need of in-patient care again.
'I'm extremely happy for people in this area, St. Tammany and Orleans Parish, who do have mentally ill people in their lives,' she said.
Not everybody is happy about today's agreement. A group of employees, patient families and citizens, who've been advocating for the hospital to remain under public control, say they still have more questions than answers, including one raised today, about whether the deal followed all legal requirements.
'I don't feel they're being truthful,' said Mary Engel, employee and member of Committee to Save Southeast Hospital, 'We had 176 staffed beds at the end of the year. They're offering 58 and another 24. How is that going to provide services?'
But Northshore leaders say the agreement is legit and likely life-saving.
'In giving the choices we had, that is closing Southeast or finding a public-private partnership to keep services there, it was a no-brainer for me,' said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, 'I'm delighted we're able to keep the jobs here, keep the services here, more importantly.'
All current Southeast employees are getting priority for jobs with the new company operating the facility. They received 30-day notice layoff letters Friday. The transition from public to private will be complete Jan. 2.
The state says it's also finalizing agreements with private providers in the New Orleans area, in order to increase the number of in-patient beds on the Southshore.
Community Care Hospital will take on eight adult psychiatric beds from Southeast, while River Oaks Hospital will open up eight more youth beds, also on Jan. 2.
The state says these efforts don't eliminate any services, but instead, spreads them out.