Dealing with the mentally ill after LSU imposes $15 million in planned cuts next month will eat up scarce police and emergency responder resources, destabilize interactions between police officers and the mentally ill (possibly resulting in fatal violence), increase psychiatric patients in Orleans Parish jails and lead to "more work for the Coroner's Office," Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, chief psychiatrist for the New Orleans Coroner's Office, said at a Thursday meeting of the New Orleans City Council Health, Education and Social Services Committee.
Rouse said the cuts will produce a situation much like the one the city saw immediately after Hurricane Katrina, before some mental health services resumed.
"I used to say after the storm that I was a funnel to nowhere," Rouse said, adding he didn't have anywhere to refer serious psychiatric patients except jail.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman said he can't treat the mentally ill, either.
"Jail is not the place for mentally ill people. To recover, to get better, it's not the place. ... We have over 200 people in our system who are on psychotropic drugs," and there are only 60 psychiatric beds, Gusman said.
City officials who have spoken out on the cuts have largely blamed Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, though the administration has pointed to LSU management for overspending. On Thursday, District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell indicated she might even be willing to sue the state to recover funds she believes the city has been unfairly denied.
"Why do you think that the goose that lays the golden egg for this state can keep taking this abuse?" she said. "Maybe we need to go to court. ... I'm tired of talking." — Charles Maldonado