Some ambulances rerouting to Bridge Center to alleviate strain on hospitals

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BATON ROUGE- Some ambulances transporting patients with mental health problems or problems involving substance abuse are avoiding the hospital altogether.

Instead, they are going directly to the Bridge Center, Baton Rouge's mental health facility that opened in February.

Substance abuse has been such a problem during the pandemic that the state began tracking a rise in deadly and non-deadly overdoses. Hospitals typically help those with the worst cases, but in East Baton Rouge Parish the alternative is a brand new facility.

"We're accepting individuals from the hospitals," said Lysha Best, Louisiana director for RI International. "We are accepting individuals that walk in, law enforcement drop-offs, and we are welcoming people to refer those individuals to us."

The Bridge Center for Hope helps people with mental health problems and substance abuse. Since the facility opened in February, it's helped thousands of people according to Best.

"In any situation, EMS and paramedics will do their own triage and see who is stable enough to come to this facility and who needs to go to the hospital," Best said.

There were 242 overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish last year, according to the coroner. As of two weeks ago, that number is at 145. That's on track to meet or surpass last year's record.

The Bridge Center, now taking patients, is providing a glimmer of hope to the exhausted health care workers continuing the fight against the coronavirus.

"How can we alleviate the strain?" Best asked. "We can accept individuals, the hospitals can refer them to us, families can bring them, law enforcement can bring them instead of taking them to the hospital. EMS the same thing. We are continuing to have these conversations with our community partners to make sure they understand our resource, instead of taking them to the hospital."

Taxpayers approved a property tax for the Bridge Center in 2018.


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