Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
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MANDEVILLE -- It's been 48 hours since the old Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville has been under private control.

The mental health facility, now called Northlake Behavioral Health System, was handed over from the state after federal Medicaid budget cuts threatened to close it all together. The changes are evident even from the front gate. But the new operator, Meridian Behavioral Health Systems, says the 60-year-old standard of quality mental health care is still the goal at the Northshore campus.

'We've received a very good support from the community in terms of receiving referrals and providing great care for the patients for the first 48 hours,' said Meridian CEO Wes Mason.

The care is being provided to 58 patients, most children, by 125 former SELH employees.

New Northlake Human Resources Director Sharon Taylor said, 'I decided to come on board with Meridian because there was a lot of enthusiasm and working with the employees that had been with Southeast in helping them transition over to the new facility.'

That transition is still in full swing, with the short-term goal to improve the atmosphere for the initial agreement, and the long-term aim to expand to around 125 beds with more than 300 staff members.

Mason said, 'We have goals of renovation to add more beds, that would be more community beds, that regardless of payer, people throughout the local region and state could access care at our hospital.'

Even though the hospital stayed open under a new name, there's still pushback from the group to Save Southeast Hospital, including employees that work here now with Meridian.

'Many workers feel it was an unjust decision,' said Brad Ott with the Committee to Save Southeast, 'It was made in violation of civil service rules and we're challenging it.'

But Meridian says it has an open-door policy when it comes to bettering its services and staff.

'People are allowed to have a voice and we encourage that, but hopefully we'll be able to work with those people to provide the best quality that we can for those patients and they'll see us hopefully as advocates and partners going forward,' said Mason.

The Committee to Save Southeast Hospital will hold a community forum on its continued efforts to fight the transition Saturday. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. at Mandeville City Hall.

Meridian vows to keep the public informed of its progress at the old campus.

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