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Bridge Center opening delayed due to licensing issues

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BATON ROUGE- Three weeks after organizers showed off the bright and shiny facility that was supposed to be the answer to Baton Rouge's mental health crisis, a licensing issue has the facility unable to open.

The facility will operate under three different licenses: crisis receiving, behavior health, and an arrested unit.

"We are doing something that's never been done in the State of Louisiana," Executive Director of the Bridge Center, Charlotte Claiborne said. "There is not another crisis receiving center in this entire state. When you do something for the first time, you have to keep in mind there's going to be some hiccups."

Claiborne said they've been working with the Department of Health all of last year to obtain the proper licenses. However, there have been some revisions that needed to be made to their applications before those licenses could be issued. The center can not open until the licenses are obtained.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office said since the facility was opened for public tours on December 16, 2020, there have been 68 orders for protective custody in East Baton Rouge Parish. They estimate about one-third of those people would have gone to the Bridge Center if it had been open.

"Our phones have been ringing off the hook," Claiborne said. "Which we have been trying to provide other services with our community that can help and assist. Capital Area, Volunteers of America, and other organizations that can help these individuals while we are still in that process.

Claiborne hopes the state will issue the licenses to operate this month.

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