MANDEVILLE, La. - A proposed agreement is on the table to keep a mental hospital on the Northshore from closing.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says it has chosen private provider, Meridian Behavioral Health, to possibly take over in-patient services on the Southeast Louisiana Hospital campus in Mandeville. The state has already started the process of pulling its services out of the 60-year-old facility due to budget cuts.
St. Tammany Parish is also working out details with the state to obtain use of the property, which would allow out-patient services currently operating at SELH to stay put.
Officials working on the agreement say this could be a win-win.
'This step makes me feel so much more comfortable that we have this in place and this is a huge part of our mental health care in this parish,' said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.
DHH Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert said, 'We feel very, very good that we'll be able to retain that safety net capacity and offer these services for people in locations where the capacities are needed.'
Kliebert tells Eyewitness News the agreement being worked on, right now, calls for 42 child beds and 16 adult beds, for the uninsured, to stay on the campus for in-patient services.
For people who have been on the front lines of this fight, the news is bittersweet.
'It's absolutely better than nothing for the people that work here and its better than nothing because the state of Louisiana needs psychiatric beds desperately,' said SELH Child Psychologist Dr. Avery Buras.
'It's still a big disservice to have to transfer patients from here, from acute care, to 100 or 200 miles away for long term beds,' said SELH Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Bradley, 'And I think our families in the greater New Orleans area are going to still be very upset about that.'
'I don't know that you can always keep everyone happy,' said National Alliance for Mental Illness Spokesman Nick Richard, 'I think we have to see what this looks like when it gets all laid out, but I think as it stands, it certainly sounds a lot better than it did on July 13 when this place wasn't going to be here at all.'
The proposed agreement also sends beds up to LSU's Bogalusa psychiatric unit, which was also scheduled to close, and to two private providers in New Orleans. DHH hopes to sign off on all deals in two weeks.