Update (4 p.m.): Laura Maggi reports in The Times-Picayune that Children's Hospital this afternoon issued a statement saying it is in fact not planning on reopening the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital.
From the story:
"We articulated the hospital's position that relocating mental health services from the Calhoun campus to the deteriorated NOAH campus would not be economically feasible. We will continue to provide mental health services on the Calhoun Campus," according to the statement.
Neither Abramson nor representatives of Children's Hospital immediately returned requests for comment.
In the meantime, take a look at Act 867 of 2012, which authorized the transfer of the property to Children's Hospital. The law provided that the Louisiana Division of Administration may enter into a lease with Children's, provided that it happens by Feb. 1, 2013. Here's what happens otherwise:
"The lease provided for in Section 3 and Section 4 shall be executed by February 1, 2013. Failure to execute the lease shall render Section 3 and Section 4 null, void and without effect. After such time or when Children's Hospital refuses to enter into the lease, whichever is sooner, the commissioner of administration is authorized to to offer a lease of the property ... to the highest bidder."
If Children's Hospital didn't sign the lease by February, the state could offer NOAH up to anyone. Children's signed it on Jan. 25. The lease requires the hospital to provide the same services NOAH did before it was closed, but it gives the hospital two years (plus reasonable time extensions) to bring it up to code. If Children's fails to live up to the agreement, the property simply reverts back to state contol. Meanwhile the state and Children's Hospital are able to negotiate the sale of the property, which is, according to Maggi's report, what Children's wants.
Here's what happened earlier today (after the jump):
State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, appearing before the New Orleans City Council today, said that the state has finalized a deal to lease the shuttered New Orleans Adolescent Hospital to Children's Hospital, allowing NOAH to reopen and provide inpatient and outpatient mental health services to children and adolescents.
Abramson, who led a presentation with Rep Jeff Arnold and Rep. Jared Brossett, said the state has worked out a long term lease agreement. He could not immediately provide a timeline for the reopening.
"While I'd like to say we can open the doors tomorrow, it's a work in progress," Abramson said. "We don't have a specific timeline."
Under the terms of the 99-year lease, the hospital will pay the state $650,000 the first year, with subsequent annual payments increasing with inflation. Children's also has the option to pay $29 million, or the approximate value of the entire term in present-day dollars, immediately. The lease requires the hospital to use the property for provide mental health care.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration closed the hospital, the city's lone public mental health hospital, in 2009, moving patients to Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH) in St. Tammany Parish. Last year, the state relinquished control of SELH, handing over management to Florida-based Meridian Behavioral Health Systems.
"Since Hurricane Katrina, things have not gotten better but have gotten worse," Abramson, whose district includes the property, said. "In 2009, NOAH as we know it was closed. Those patient beds ... were sent to other places."
He said that many children with mental health issues admitted to New Orleans emergency rooms have no ready access to inpatient psychiatric care.
"We know that sending these kids to Mandeville, sending them to Alexandria, sending them out of state, away from their families is no solution," he said.
Arnold and Brossett both said the state has recently moved away from mental health services, placing a burden on municipal budgets and, often, the criminal justice system.
"We need to reverse the stigmas throughout the city and state as relates to mntal health care. It's my belief that it's a universal right as relates to health care," Brossett said.
Council members praised the deal but stressed that it is not the end of the discussion with the Jindal administration.
"I challenge you to look at adult mental health care going forward," District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said. "We just dont have the facilities and the wherewithal to deal with them. When we go to Baton Rouge we're getting the deaf ear ... And let me clarify to the public that we're not getting the deaf ear from our own delegation."
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