Governor: Health care aid for New Orleans in the works

June 6, 2007
Reported by Associated Press

Governor Kathleen Blanco rejected Mayor Ray Nagin's plea for some state aid to address New Orleans' ailing health care system, saying projects aimed at bolstering the system already are being pushed at the state level.

Blanco, responding to a letter from Nagin three weeks earlier, also said she would demand accountability by those involved in restoring health care in the city.  In a letter dated yesterday to Nagin, Blanco says simply providing more funding will not address the issues.

She appointed Doctor Fred Cerise, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, to oversee her plan aimed at providing "timely" health care services to people in the region.

The mayor's office did not immediately comment.

Nagin last month said the metropolitan area urgently needed 100 beds for long-term mental health needs.  He said too-few beds for mental health and emergency room patients had led to the jailing of some who needed psychiatric care.

He asked that an "adequate" psychiatric hospital be established in New Orleans and that the state pay for the time and resources it takes to "off-load" emergency patients.  He also said the state should help fund a 250-thousand dollar a year treatment and diversion program for those with mental illnesses or drug problems.

Blanco says the city must submit a plan for how it would spend money it requested for those resources: medics, stretchers, police overtime.  She did not specifically address the other request.

Meanwhile, Blanco's plan includes at least 36 million dollars in projects proposed for DHH and LSU's Health Care Services Division.  Those include a ten-bed emergency room for mental health patients and a 20-bed area for detox at University Hospital.