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Elected officials continue to push for mental health tax

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BATON ROUGE - Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish will decide Saturday on whether to tax themselves on two key issues. Even though it has failed in recent elections, elected officials are continuing to push for the mental health tax.

"This is our last chance to get this done and get it right," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

When Earl K. Long Medical Center closed down more than five years ago, it left a major void in the treatment of those in need of mental health care. Since then, an effort to revive a dedicated center has failed.

"If this tax does not pass, we will be in the same position that we're always in, with really no adequate place to send people with mental illness, but an emergency room that's treating people with medical conditions and/or to a parish prison," said Moore.

If it passes, the one and a half-mill property tax would provide $6 million per year to get a facility up and running. The facility would be maintained for ten years.

"This is desperately needed from where we sit," Moore added. "We believe that in the population of the parish prison, in some way or another, 60 percent of the inmates may have some type of mental illness."

If the tax passes, officials plan to assist these patients at a facility named the Bridge Center. With this assistance, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul feels they can better protect East Baton Rouge.

"What it will do is free up our police officers to focus on that small group of individuals that we believe are responsible for the majority of the crimes that happen in our community," said Chief Paul.

The tax will cost $18.75 per year for homeowners who own a $200,000 home. If the tax passes, elected officials plan to station the Bridge Center at the old Baton Rouge General Health Center.

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