When Earl K. Long Hospital closed in April 2013 due to state funding being cut, it left more than just a void in physical health needs in North Baton Rouge. The closure re-institutionalized mental health by placing non-violent offenders in parish prison – simply because there was no other place to take them.
Currently, when individuals experience a crisis, EMT and law enforcement more often than not have no choice but to take these individuals to either emergency rooms, where they are triaged and often released back onto the streets after a temporary fix, or to parish prison. Neither the prison nor the E.R. are the appropriate venue for treating mental health crises or for providing bridges to longer-term recovery services.
Earl K. Long Memorial Hospital housed the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension (MHERE). Though mental health care was deinstitutionalized in the 1980s, the closing of the MHERE and other public hospitals left over 1,500 people every month with inadequate psychological support and susceptible to gaining a criminal record due to their mental instability.
On Saturday, Dec. 8, East Baton Rouge voters will have the opportunity to vote for a proposed mental health tax. The tax, a proposed 1.5 millage property tax, will raise $6 million annually to open and maintain a mental health crisis treatment center serving individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and co-occurring substance abuse issues in our parish.
The proposed mental health tax on the ballot represents the opportunity for the community to take the reins and chart a new course in behavioral health treatment for East Baton Rouge Parish. Experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a jailable offense. By passing the mental health tax, voters will ensure that all in the community have a place to turn when they, or their loved ones, experience a crisis. By voting yes for mental health, supporters will create a centralized treatment center, providing or coordinating stabilization, sobering, crisis intervention, and acute psychiatric care, among other services, many of which are not covered by traditional sources of funding.
beBATONROUGE encourages readers to consider voting yes on the Dec. 8 ballot to support mental health in our community. In doing so, you will give those experiencing crisis the longer-term treatment and stabilization services they need to break their cycles of crisis. It saves time, it will save money, and most importantly – a yes vote on Dec. 8 will save lives.
Don’t take our word for it. #vote4yourself