The Bridge Center, a nonprofit, was formed to help East Baton Rouge Parish residents who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

The experience for people with mental illness has worsened in Baton Rouge over the last 10 years due to a lack of community resources, the closure of several state hospitals, the closure of the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension and Baton Rouge General Mid City Emergency Department.

As a response, local law enforcement leaders, health care experts and civic leaders partnered to research the best solution. Their inquiry pointed them west, to San Antonio, which was treating people with mental illness, and saving money as well. The Bridge Center was formed to replicate that model - the best in the nation - in Baton Rouge.

On Dec. 8, a modest tax on the ballot would, if passed, let the Center start and operate a 30-bed mental health treatment center. People suffering from an episode of mental illness or addiction will be steadied at the treatment center. The Center’s doctors and nurses will refer patients to appropriate longer-term care. People with mental illness and addiction will once again have the services they can depend on.

The best part for all of us: the Bridge Center will show our friends, our colleagues, our loved ones that they are not alone.