La. Senate panel blocks cut to mental health program for kids

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Senate committee blocked an effort by the Edwards administration to gut a state program that provides mental health services to thousands of children across the state.

Eliminating the program would have saved just over $2 million this fiscal year. The program provides tools to help children manage depression and anger issues.

"I can't see how we benefit from cuts to programs like this," said Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma.

Senators from both sides of the aisle voted unanimously to block the proposal by the Louisiana Department of Health, introduced as part of an effort to help balance the state budget.

"You don't shut down a business in the middle of operations," said Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette.

"I can't do this to kids, we are hurting the least among us," said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor's budget chief, said the legislature left the Edwards administration no option after the special session because they refused to dip into more state savings.

"Had the 'Rainy Day Fund' been used in its entirety, we would not be here today, because the program would not be cut," Dardenne said.

Michelle Miner runs Spectrum Rehab Services based in Denham Springs, which offers mental health assistance to kids as part of the program. Miner said gutting the program would end up costing the state more in the long-run.

"We're looking at an increase in hospitalizations, emergency room visits, probably jail time," Miner said.

Members of the committee agreed with Miner, and instead recommended some cost-saving reforms to the program. Miner said that decision will save lives.

"It's such a great opportunity for our kids and that's what brings joy to my heart," Miner said.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.