City Scrambles to Find Mental Health Beds At Risk From LSU Cuts

Feb 8, 2012

A proposal to cut mental services at the Interim LSU hospital system in New Orleans has officials scrambling to find space to treat the mentally ill. Officials say the cuts are not only a health issue, but also a matter of public safety.

Health Commissioner Karen DeSalvo says she’s been meeting with several groups to find ways of accommodating the mentally ill. She says the cuts would eliminate about one-quarter of the city’s in-patient psychiatric beds, and the hardest hit will be low-income residents and the uninsured.

“It means that emergency rooms are going to get backed up, and there is a real concern that patients who might be better served at the interim LSU Hospital are going to end up in other emergency rooms. They don’t have the infrastructure at all to take care of those patients. So I am genuinely concerned.”  

DeSalvo has been meeting with LSU, the state Department of Health and Hospitals, social service agencies and doctors to find what’s available in the area and how resources can be put to the most efficient use. She says that in those meetings, she discovered five new crisis beds coming into the system next week that could be used to help transition psychiatric patients out of hospital care.

“When I say we’re looking for options and trying to educate and get the facts on the table that is a perfect example. There will be a new resource. People need to be educated about it and use it properly, right, so it doesn’t go unused. And make sure that it becomes integrated into what is right now really a poorly coordinated system.”  

DeSalvo says the city is also pushing LSU to delay or redistribute the cuts away from mental health services.