Frequently Asked Questions

As a result of community meetings of health care organizations, community advocates, local partners and law enforcement officials, we have compiled answers to questions we are most often asked. We welcome your additional questions and concerns. You can reach us through the Contact page on this site. Thank you.

Who will operate the crisis stabilization center?

The Bridge Center for Hope, a private 501(c)(3) founded to provide treatment services to people in a crisis.

What services will be provided at the center?

The following services will either be provided by the center, or coordinated where possible with existing providers, with the goal of filling a gap in the mental health continuum around crisis stabilization and connecting individuals to the care providers they need:

  • Mobile Assessment Team - that will respond to calls from the community or law-enforcement and assess level of service intervention needed.

  • Sobering Beds - where people under the influence of drugs or alcohol can safely reach sobriety and then be referred to a detox program.

  • Medical Detoxification - where people withdrawing from substance dependence are evaluated and medically managed, and physical harm to them from detoxification process is minimized.

  • Behavioral Health Respite - for evaluating and stabilizing people experiencing a psychiatric crisis.

  • Care Management Team - to provide ongoing community support and care management interventions to high users of the behavioral health and criminal justice systems.

  • Pre-Trial Release - will mean the expansion of an existing program administered by the Bridge Center to divert nonviolent people with mental illness or substance abuse challenges to treatment instead of more expensive imprisonment or emergency room care.

How many people will be treated at the center?

The initial estimated capacity of the center will be to treat up to 5,000 individuals per year.

How will the center be staffed?

Though these numbers will start small and grow over time, we will be looking for mental and behavioral health professionals possessing deep experience working with these populations to meet the recommended full-capacity staff listing as follows:

16 full-time Registered Nurses (RNs)
11 full-time Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs)
3 full-time Medical Assistants (Mas)
4 full-time Chemical Dependence Counselor or Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADCs)
4 certified peer specialists (CPS)
3 full-time Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
1 part-time Consulting Physician
1 part-time psychiatrist
1 Clinical Director
1 Executive Director

The center will be a 24/7/365 facility. This will require around-the-clock staffing, so only a portion of this staff will be working each shift.

How will people in need get to the center?

They will be able to access the center and its services through several entry points.

First, the center is always open to the public, and citizens in need are welcome to refer themselves or a family member to the center for help. When the MHERE was open, roughly 50% of those admitted came on their own.

Next, the center will staff a mobile assessment team. The mobile assessment team can be deployed instead of or in concert with police when a mental health call is made to 911 or another emergency line. This team will utilize on site stabilization methods to ensure each patient is appropriately cared for, or they will transport the individual to the Bridge Center if they cannot be stabilized on site.

Additionally, Capital Area Human Services District currently provides Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training for officers. As a result of this training, first responders will be able to assess the current state the individual(s) they are working with and identify the best path forward for them, whether that is the center, an ER, or prison/jail.

Why is the Bridge Center the proposed recipient of public funds and not Capital Area Human Services District?

Capital Area Human Services District is charged with identifying gaps in mental health care in the Greater Baton Rouge area and then working to fill them. In this capacity, CAHSD does not always provide the services needed in the community, but partners closely with community partners working to fill gaps in care. In this case, CAHSD has been a part of the conversation around the Bridge Center from the beginning and Jan Kasofsky, PhD led the Clinical Design Committee that outlined the proposed services for the Bridge Center. The Bridge Center is modeled on the successful Mental Health Emergency Room Extension (MHERE) that operated at Earl K. Long Hospital for 2 years. Its design, formulated by Dr. Kasofsky through the Behavioral Health Collaborative, was based on the first facility of its kind in San Antonio. CAHSD sees the Bridge Center as an important component of the crisis continuum and that it will serve to assist people, once stabilized, to access ongoing care with an appropriate provider of their choice.

Additionally, the Bridge Center will be required to report to several agencies as a healthcare facility receiving public funds. It will be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health, registered as a Medicaid provider, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, report to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council and Mayor-President’s office, report to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office, among others.

The Bridge Center is a private entity and East Baton Rouge City-Parish and other public agencies have and continue to benefit from public-private partnerships. For example, Capital Area Human Services District places social workers into the Baton Rouge Clinic to provide mental health services on site for patients of that clinic. This results in 70 hours of services by social workers and a physician consultant to Baton Rouge Clinic doctors. CAHSD has also partnered with a private specialty pharmacy who provides these services for CAHSD clients. CAHSD has many contracts and partnerships in place with local providers such as Mental Health Association of Greater Baton Rouge for drop in services, O’Brien House, Reality House, and Baton Rouge Detox. The Bridge Center would represent a similar partnership where CAHSD can work with the Bridge Center to meet a community need through this relationship.

Will law enforcement be the primary determiners of who is diverted to the Bridge Center?

No. The Bridge Center will accept patients as walk-ins, escorted by loved ones, as referrals from other provider agencies, or after someone encounters EMS or law enforcement.

When the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension (MHERE) was fully operating, approximately 50% of patients were walk-ins to the facility. We expect similar numbers here given that the Bridge Center is in many ways modeled after the success of the MHERE.

In addition, when the MHERE was operating, no one who was stabilized at the facility was ever arrested or transferred to jail. We hope to emulate this same practice as we focus on stabilizing someone in mental health crisis and then referring them to the appropriate ongoing care facility.

CAHSD initiated Crisis Intervention Training for officers 13 years ago. CIT is taught at the police academy with a 40-hour class for regional officers. Additionally, two 40-hour institutes are offered per year as well as numerous one-day trainings for probation and parole, the sheriff’s office and police department. Behavioral Health and De-escalation Training for Probation and Parole post-Academy is offered 1-3 times per year. With this existing training, we believe law enforcement will be properly informed on how best to interact with someone in mental health crisis and where to bring that individual for appropriate care. Should any additional training be needed, the Bridge Center will work closely with CAHSD to identify the need and coordinate this training.

When someone comes in contact with law enforcement and is experiencing a mental health crisis, EMS and/or a mobile response team can help make the decision as to the most appropriate placement for that individual.

Are all Baton Rouge Police Officers trained in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)?

The Capital Area Human Services District initiated CIT training in 2008. CIT is taught at the police academy with a 40-hour class for regional officers. The 40-hour class is also offered 2 times per year. The 8-hour class is offered 1-3 times per year. Behavioral Health and De-escalation Training for Probation and Parole POST Academy is offered 1-3 times per year.

The Bridge Center Board is law enforcement heavy and lacks racial diversity. Will this situation be resolved?

The Bridge Center has recently had several board members resign and several new board members appointed. The board is being reconfigured to add specific skillsets that will aid in the implementation of the Bridge Center model while also better reflecting the community it will serve. The current make-up of the board is as follows:

SLATE OF OFFICERS:
Kathy Kliebert, board chair
Former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (retired)

Murphy Paul, board vice chair,
Baton Rouge Police Department police chief

Charles Abboud, board treasurer,
BancorpSouth Benefits & Financial Services Senior VP

Lauren Crump board secretary, Baton Rouge Area Foundation strategic consulting services

MEMBERS AT LARGE:
Coroner Beau Clark, MD
EBR Parish Coroner

Angie N. Clouatre, RN
Baton Rouge General Mid-City Director of Bheavioral Services Executive Director

Denise Dugas
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center Mental and Behavioral Health Executive Director

Dennis Grimes
EBR Parish Sheriff’s Office Warden

Chad Guillot
EBR Parish Emergency Medical Services Director

Gwen Hamilton
New Schools for Baton Rouge Community Affairs

Jan Kasofsky, PhD
Capital Area Human Services District Executive Director

Gwen Knox
Community Advocate Parents of Addicted Loves Ones

Hillar Moore
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney

Tonja Myles
Love Alive Church Community Outreach Pastor, Set Free Addiction Recovery

Chris Nichols
Community Advocate

Mary Ann Sternberg
Freelance Writer and Author

Will the Bridge Center accept someone with outstanding warrants?

When someone presents to the Bridge Center, there will not be a check to determine if that individual has a criminal history or outstanding warrant. The Bridge Center is first and foremost a mental health treatment center and not an extension of law enforcement or jail. If someone encounters law enforcement in mental health crisis, law enforcement will use their discretion to determine if the outstanding warrant or any crime will necessitate jail instead of crisis services. These decisions will be made on a case by case basis. However, we will work closely with law enforcement to encourage bringing someone to the Bridge Center in lieu of jail, even with outstanding warrants, where that person can receive the appropriate treatment and referral to ongoing care. The Bridge Center will work with law enforcement to resolve warrants without the necessity of jail, for example through voluntary appearances in court.

Will the Bridge Center serve children?

For two primary reasons the Bridge Center will not initially treat children. First, licensure by the Louisiana Department of Health requires that adults and children be treated in separate facilities with separate staff. Second, the credentials and qualifications to treat children and adults are different and necessitate a specialized approach.

We have seen in other communities like San Antonio, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona that these programs launched serving adults and then added new facilities to serve children in a replication of the model. We hope to replicate this approach with success at the Bridge Center.

Will the Bridge Center serve individuals who are considered violent?

The Bridge Center will accept individuals who are considered violent on a case by case basis and will be required by licensure to provide lockdown facilities and appropriate security to stabilize and treat these individuals, while maintaining safety at the facility. Individuals who are considered violent will be evaluated based upon the level of violence, type of potential charge, their history, etc. Specific policies as to how these decisions will be made need to be drafted and finalized. The Bridge Center will work to maintain the safety of the facility, staff, and patients while acting in the best interest of patients.

Will the Bridge Center serve individuals from out of parish?

Yes. If someone presents to the Bridge Center who is not from East Baton Rouge Parish, they will be treated, stabilized, and referred to the appropriate ongoing treatment in their home parish. Additionally, if East Baton Rouge parish law enforcement or EMS encounters someone from out of the parish and wants to bring them to the Bridge Center, the Bridge Center will gladly accept that individual. At this time, we do not anticipate partnerships with law enforcement agencies outside of East Baton Rouge parish, given the initial source of funding.

Will there be a mandate regarding the Bridge Center budget, conflict of interests, and lobbying limitations?

As a non-profit 501c3, the Bridge Center is limited in its ability to participate in lobbying activities. As a recipient of public funds, none of those funds can be used for lobbying activities. The Bridge Center anticipates disclosing its expenditures related to this public funding to the Metro Council and Mayor-President’s office on an agreed upon schedule. Additional accountability measures will be put in place and the Bridge Center welcomes conversations about the appropriate metrics and standards to be tracked and implemented.

How much will be saved in ER visits, officer time, and jail?

In 2015, M. Ray Perryman, an economist from San Antonio, where a jail diversion program was successful, calculated that an EBR jail diversion program would generate $3 million in direct cost savings in year one and $54.9 million over 10 years. This report scaled the San Antonio model to Baton Rouge demographics and calculated savings across the community, including deferred emergency room visits, jail time, and officer wait time. In its two years of being open, the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension saw no patients end up in jail.

Why does this proposal not also include funding for a new jail?

The Justice Center Study prepared for the City-Parish by Loop Capital was designed to assist policymakers in decisions about the size and scope of a new jail facility and provide a menu of options for more detailed implementation steps. The authors of the report concluded that implementing diversion programs, including increasing options for diverting individuals with mental health needs, should be taken prior to the construction of a new parish prison. Doing so will allow officials and policymakers to better understand how many inmates the new prison should house.

What has changed between the 2016 tax attempt and now?

Organizers of the center reevaluated the current state of mental health services in the Parish. This new evaluation helped to 1) understand the financial and service-level implications of the Medicaid expansion mandated by Governor John bel Edwards in 2016, 2) identify changes that had occurred with service providers working in the proposed continuum since the original tax pursuit, and 3) respond to an evolving need for a strengthened network of established mental-health service providers in the community.

In response to these changes, the Bridge Center for Hope has begun consolidating its efforts with the long-standing Crisis Intervention Center of Louisiana. Additionally, the center also launched a pre-trial release program for non-violent offenders in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. In the more than 12 months since the program’s inception, more than 50 residents have been released from prison and connected with appropriate mental and substance abuse treatment programs.

Will the center treat individuals with substance abuse issues?

The enter will be primarily focused on individuals suffering from mental health crises, which often includes co-occurring substance abuse issues. The center will oversee sobering and detoxification services, and will connect people with substance abuse issues to providers specializing in the kind of treatment they need for recovery.

How many calls does EMS respond to from people in a mental health crisis?

In 2017, EMS responded to 3,821 calls with mental health issues as the primary reason for the call. 81% of those people were taken to an emergency room.

How many people are brought to the Our Lady of the Lake Emergency Room by law enforcement?

All of our community’s health systems are affected by the gap in crisis stabilization services, and in 2017, about 540 people were brought to the Our Lady of the Lake ER by law enforcement.

How many people were committed in 2017?

1,090 Orders of Protective Custody (OPC) and 7,631 Coroner’s Emergency Certificates (CEC) were issued.

What is the process to commit someone?

Order of Protective Custody (OPC) - The office of the Coroner may issue an Order for Protective Custody at the request of a “peace officer or other credible person,” who provides justification that such an order be warranted as indicated by La RS 28:53.2. This order permits law enforcement officers to pick up the named individual, within 72 hours of issuance, for transport to a treatment facility providing care for mental illness and/or substance abuse. The order is valid only for 72 hours from the time it is signed by the Coroner.

A patient brought to the facility on an OPC must be evaluated by the physician within 12 hours of arrival.

Coroner Emergency Certificate - A person who is mentally ill or a person who is suffering from substance abuse may be admitted and detained at a facility for observation, diagnosis and treatment for a period not to exceed fifteen days under an emergency certificate.

A person suffering from substance abuse may be detained at a treatment facility for one additional period, not to exceed fifteen days, provided that a second emergency certificate is executed.

Upon admission of any person by emergency certificate to a treatment facility, the director of the treatment facility shall immediately notify the coroner of the parish in which the treatment facility is located of the admission. Within seventy-two hours of admission, the person shall be independently examined by the coroner or his deputy who shall execute an emergency certificate, which shall be a necessary precondition to the person's continued confinement.

If, from his examination, the coroner concludes that the person is not a proper subject for emergency admission, then the person shall not be further detained in the treatment facility and shall be discharged by the director.