Bridge Center moves ahead with service provider

Bridge Center board selects service provider

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Monday, Aug. 19, the Bridge Center board of directors selected RI International (Recovery Incorporated) to manage the long-talked-about mental health facility.

The selection offers some clarity as to what treatment will look like for the patients who will use the crisis stabilization center, which voters chose to fund with a property tax in December of 2018.

“This community needs this,” board chair, Kathy Kliebert, said. “We know this is a model that works.”

Two firms applied to run the facility: RI International and a partnership between Baton Rouge General and Our Lady of the Lake.

A selection committee recommended RI after it scored more than 30 points higher on its scorecard than the hospital’s joint venture proposal. The two firms were graded on their approach to staffing, treatment, financing, and experience.

In short, board members say the hospitals’ proposal would have created a facility that operates more like an emergency room. RI International’s proposal follows a unique, research-backed treatment model that’s working in other states.

At the center of RI’s model is peer-to-peer treatment, in which some people who have overcome mental health and addiction problems themselves act as therapists who can help stabilize a patient who is having a crisis.

“I’m able to look in that person’s eyes, listen to what they’re going through, and have a level of empathy and understanding that’s not possible with a type of medical professional that hasn’t actually been there and done that,” peer-to-peer specialist, Angela Lorio, said.

RI International also plans to incorporate a mobile assessment unit into the first phase of its service. Mental health “first responders” can address crisis situations on the spot when patients cannot make it to the facility.

The Bridge Center telephone number will be available to the public.

“We are really excited to be at this point,” Kliebert said. “This is a provider that has a long history of positive outcomes. Both groups that presented were good, but in the end, we felt like this option would provide the best model for what we were looking for going forward.”

There’s a 14-day protest period where the other group can challenge the decision, but Kliebert anticipates they will be able to move forward quickly and start providing mental health options that she says are desperately needed in the capital area.

“Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General and all of our partners are grateful to all of the community stakeholders who played a part in this important decision. We are blessed to live and operate in a community where we care about those most in need and we look forward to seeing the Bridge Center achieve success," Scott Wester, president and CEO of Our Lady of the Lake, and Edgardo Tenreiro, CEO of Baton Rouge General, said in a joint statement. "While we are not familiar with Recovery International’s work, we are confident that the Bridge Center board will ensure stewardship of our taxpayer dollars and that positive results will be delivered for our community. With more than 60 years of experience providing local mental health services in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake and Baton Rouge General stand ready to support the Bridge Center in whatever way possible.”

The board is aiming to have the facility open in March of 2020.

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