For many years, the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) was an institution that stood at the center of New Orleans’ mental health service system for children and youth. The closing of NOAH in 2009 created a significant fissure in this system. Two bills filed in the current legislative session have reignited discussion around NOAH and the services it provided.
HB 595 requires Children’s Hospital to use NOAH for mental health services, and, if Children’s Hospital refused to do so, would allow for Ochsner to lease the facility. If Ochsner declined to offer mental health services, the property would be put out to bid.
We at the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a leading nonprofit mental health agency providing counseling and intervention services to some of the community’s neediest children, encourage legislators to examine the bills before them carefully with the needs of our children in mind.
Our community needs a local option for children that require hospitalization due to psychiatric illness and/or substance abuse. It is counter to the best interests of any child and their family to be sent to a hospital outside of his/her community. Sending children out of town creates additional burdens and stress on a family that is already under stress (i.e. loss of wages, transportation costs, and absence of natural family and social supports for the hospitalized child and family members). In addition, discharge and transition plans from facilities out of town are often lacking due to their lack of knowledge about available mental health resources in the New Orleans’ area.
There is a tremendous need in our community for a high quality, mental health facility that addresses a diverse array of treatment needs through services which include short and longer term hospitalization, day treatment programs, partial hospitalization, substance abuse services, educational programming and crisis step-down beds. Our children and youth deserve a facility that offers these services in a non-institutional, family-friendly environment, something which can be achieved by providing these services on the NOAH campus.
We at the Children’s Bureau believe in working toward a coordinated system of care with an array of services to address the diverse needs of children and youth with mental illness and their families. We implore state legislators to take this into consideration and make the right decisions about the sale of NOAH, leveraging this asset as a way to deliver more mental health services for children to our community.