In our recent cover story on the mental health crisis in New Orleans, we spoke to Interim LSU Hospital's emergency director Dr. Peter DeBlieux, who said that the closure of a number of emergency beds as a result of LSU budget cuts:
"As we're having this conversation, I am down to 15 [emergency mental health beds]," DeBlieux says. "You know this is a misnomer. I've got a room with six chairs and I call them beds. So, just so that we're talking about the same thing, I have nine true beds, like you could sleep in them beds. And that's what I have right now. And that's what I will have going forward."
What the cuts amount to, DeBlieux believes, is a loss of the city's safety net. ILH is the only inpatient public mental health provider in the metropolitan area, serving a population of more than 1 million people.
Today, The Advocate reports on similar problems in Baton Rouge, where the Earl K. Long Medical Center has lost 10 of its 20 emergency mental health beds :
The bed closures at the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension, or MHERE, come at a time of increased need as the number of those with behavioral health problems continue to climb, said Jan Kasofsky, executive director of the Capital Area Human Services District, called CAHSD.
“We are seeing so many more people in crisis now than ever before. More people have lost insurance, are having emotional difficulties, anxiety with loss of jobs, the recession and how to handle their bills,” she said. “There’s a demand for psychiatric services.”
Hospital and mental health officials report patients with acute mental health problems are being delivered by family, police and others to hospital emergency rooms because of the drawback of facilities designed to specifically address mental health emergencies. The result is much longer waits for patients who need medical care at hospital emergency rooms, known as ERs.