BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mental health is a top priority this year for the EBR Coroner's Office.
"It's my job as the coroner to notify not only the authorities but also the public at large that we have an issue," said EBR Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.
Dr. Clark presented the coroner's annual report Tuesday at Café Americain on Jefferson Highway. The 2014 reports shows a drop in homicides and heroin deaths, but also a spike in mental health patients and suicides. According to the warden at the parish prison, nearly half of inmates need mental health treatment.
"I think this clearly illustrates that we have a mental health crisis in our parish," said Dr. Clark.
Clark says his office is now working autopsies out of Livingston Parish. That's where police say truck driver Robert Kohl from Fort Worth, TX apparently turned suicidal Monday.
"We need to create a place where those suffering from mental illness can be treated and not just locked-up in jail," said Dr. Clark.
Clark supports replacing the emergency room at EBR General with a new mental health unit. The Mid-City location closes it's ER at the end of March.
EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore supports his colleague's stance on addressing mental health, and also fighting synthetic marijuana - another major talking point of Tuesday's presentation.
"Synthetic marijuana is just really tearing up a lot of kids and now we see it moving into some older people," said Moore, "It really is poison."
Every chance that we get to ban these synthetic substances, they alter the chemistry of it just slightly and now it's not illegal anymore," said Dr. Clark.
Clark says he will continue to work with law enforcement and the DA's Office, trying to get synthetic pot off the streets.