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BRAF to release mental health plan Monday; effort to keep people out of jail

8 months 1 week 46 minutes ago February 17, 2016 Feb 17, 2016 Wednesday, February 17 2016 February 17, 2016 12:14 PM in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - In less than a week, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation said it will share plans for a proposed substance abuse and mental health treatment center in the city.

Community and government leaders have said there is a mental health crisis in Baton Rouge for some time. Facilities have closed - including the state-run Earl K Long Hospital in the northern area of the city - leading many people to be "warehoused" in jail because there is no other place to go.

"We have to make a decision on whether we want to rehabilitate inmates or we just want to warehouse them," Warden Dennis Grimes said in a WBRZ report featured on television and WBRZ.com in February 2015. Then, the WBRZ Investigative Unit highlighted the issue.

Experts suggest as many as 500 beds could be freed up at the jail in East Baton Rouge if a mental health hospital were to open. In 2015, an emergency room doctor at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital estimated at least 700 patients come through the hospital each month with mental health issues. But, it has been easier to talk about solutions then fund them.

In a news release from BRAF Wednesday, officials said the foundation will share recommendations for a facility to treat people who should not be jailed.

"In a collaboration with public safety officials and behavioral health professionals, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation hired Health Management Associates to recommend a comprehensive model for crisis care of people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. The goal of the project is to divert people with mental illness to appropriate care instead of incarcerating them, which has been more effective and less costly in communities that have implement the model," a spokesperson said in a statement alerting news agencies to the announcement next week.

BRAF hired Health Management Associates to provide a master plan for the treatment center and the services it should provide.  BRAF said the report will include ideas on funding the project.
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