Consultant Hired to Write Plan for EBR Mental Health Treatment Center

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has hired consultants to write a business and implementation plan for a behavioral health crisis center in East Baton Rouge Parish.

By December, Health Management Associates will deliver a report that recommends services, governance and funding for the treatment center. The work is being underwritten by David’s Fund, which was established at the Foundation by Bill O’Quin in honor of his son.

David Q’Quin, a schizophrenic, was picked up by local police during a breakdown in February 2013. Thirteen days later he died in prison. Had there been a treatment center, David’s death could have been prevented.

The Foundation, local officials and behavioral health experts have been collaborating to create the Recovery and Empowerment Center for more than a year. The project is responding to cuts in mental health services that have aggravated conditions.

Unable to receive the help they need, people with mental illnesses are experiencing crises more often. Sometimes, they break minor laws, causing them to end up in prison instead of treatment. As a consequence, several have died in local jails. Taxpayers have benefited in cities that are diverting mentally ill, nonviolent people to therapy instead of jail because treatment costs less than incarceration.

M. Ray Perryman, a Texas-based economist hired by the Foundation, estimated that EBR government would save millions of dollars and accumulate secondary benefits if people were treated, not jailed. Basing his calculations on an effective model in San Antonio, Perryman concluded that an EBR diversion program would directly save $3 million in taxes in the first year and $54.9 million over a decade.

Moreover, secondary benefits would reduce community costs $15.9 million in the first year, $42.4 million per year at maturity and $288.7 million over 10 years. Secondary benefits include people with mental illnesses doing productive work, living healthier lives and not being homeless.

Based in Atlanta, HMA specializes in health system restructuring, health care program development, health economics and finance, program evaluation and data analysis. The consultants know Baton Rouge. They are working for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and LSU Health Sciences System to create an integrated delivery system for the Medicaid and uninsured populations in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area.

About the Foundation: The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is among more than 700 community foundations in the country. The Foundation works in two ways that together improve the quality of life in Baton Rouge and across South Louisiana. The Foundation and its fund donors grant about $30 million each year to nonprofits. As well, the Foundation takes on projects to improve the capacity of nonprofits, solve fundamental problems and build gathering places for all people. Our current projects include improving autism services in the Baton Rouge metropolitan region, master planning for the Baton Rouge Lakes and for the congested area around Essen Lane where health care providers are clustered. With Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the Foundation is building the Water Campus. Rising on 30 acres outside downtown Baton Rouge, the campus will provide labs and space for scientists and engineers working on the double peril of coastal erosion and rising seas across the Gulf Coast and the world. More at BRAF.org.