BY ALLEN M. JOHNSON JR.
Gov. Bobby Jindals veto of state funding for New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) has put pressure on fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Anh Joseph Cao to address the projected Sept. 1 closing of the mental health facility.
One day after Jindals June 30 veto of $14.2 million for NOAH, activists passed out leaflets at a Mid-City health care fair -- hosted by Cao - urging the congressman to support keeping the 35-bed hospital Uptown.
Cao said that he asked Jindal Administration officials if NOAH could remain in New Orleans if $4.5 million in federal funds could be found to plug the state funding shortfall for NOAH (which the governor put at $5.8 million). They did not make a commitment, Cao said of state health officials.
The congressman added that earlier in the week he asked a City Park "roundtable" of area hospital executives if they could accommodate more mental health beds. However, the executives replied that mental health beds are too costly for private facilities to maintain because of a lack of federal Medicaid reimbursements, Cao said. Childrens Hospital has space for 16 additional beds for mental health, the congressman added, but the nonprofit would need $1 million for the expansion.
In his veto message, Jindal said NOAH costs twice as much to operate as other state inpatient facilities. The governor said the consolidation of NOAH and transfer of its beds to the state Southeast Louisiana Hospital at Mandeville would result in $9.1 million in savings and no loss of patient services, while providing community-based mental health services in New Orleans.
Critics fear that transportation of mental patients across Lake Pontchartrain will pose a financial hardship on local governments, hospital emergency rooms and visiting family members. A legislative override of Jindals veto is widely viewed as unlikely. Allen M. Johnson Jr.