BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The second go-round turned out to be a success for advocates of the new Bridge Center, a mental health care facility in Baton Rouge.
Sixty-eight percent of voters said yes to the tax proposal on election night Saturday, a significant change from two years ago when the measure failed.
“It was really just getting the word out, and then, unfortunately, over the past two years, more and more people have died as a result of mental health issues, not only just in the prisons, but in the streets,” said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, a supporter of the project.
Moore said mentally ill people are being sent to the wrong spot: jail. He estimates up to 30 percent of the prison population shouldn’t be there.
“Those people that would normally go to prison because they committed some offense because they’re suffering from a mental health problem, like maybe against their parents or family member, that parent doesn’t generally want their child to go to jail. However, right now, it’s the only option,” Moore explained.
Another supporter of the Bridge Center, EBR Coroner Beau Clark, agrees.
“Everybody realizes that treating mental health by imprisoning people in a jail is not the proper thing to do,” Clark said.
The Bridge Center will have 30 beds, be open 24 hours a day, and have approximately 42 staff members made of doctors, nurses, and social workers. Funds for the project aren’t available until 2020, but officials hope to get some money up front from the parish so they can get started. If they’re successful, they say they can be up and running in six to nine months.
“Establishing a staff to run it and the policies, getting the proper licensing through the department of health, and then hit the ground running,” Clark added.
While they have not settled on an exact location, they say the Baton Rouge General Mid-City Campus and the old Woman’s Hospital would be good spots.