Southeast Louisiana Hospital

The new private operator of a St. Tammany Parish psychiatric hospital has hired about 125 of the 354 workers laid off by the state.

Friday was the last day of work for many employees of Southeast Louisiana Hospital, who were laid off when the state decided to privatize it, the Advocate reports.

Meridian Behavioral Health System takes over Wednesday.

It's not clear exactly how many people will be left without a job, because some state employees are retiring and a few others are transferring.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is asking for an attorney general's opinion about whether Gov. Bobby Jindal can close a state-run mental health facility in St. Tammany Parish without legislative approval.

Sen. Jack Donahue, a Republican from Mandeville, says closing Southeast Louisiana Hospital in a parish that has one of the state's highest suicide rates is unwise. He's pushing to keep the facility open.

Almost 60 years since it opened, the Southeast Louisiana Hospital — a psychiatric facility that gained national notoriety in 1959 when then-Gov. Earl Long was briefly committed there — is preparing to close down its daily operations.

The Times-Picayune reports that the hospital's closing is part of an $859 million cut to the state's federal Medicaid program.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals hopes to send all 176 beds occupied at the hospital to other public and private hospitals in the state.