Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Secretary Alan Levine today celebrated the opening of two new community-based outpatient mental health care clinics for children, adolescents and their families in the Greater New Orleans area. Levine joined local and state officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at one of the new clinics, the Midtown Clinic in New Orleans, to mark another milestone in the state’s creation of a robust, community-based mental health system statewide.

The Midtown and West Bank clinics will annually provide public outpatient mental health care for 1,200 children and adolescents from birth to 18 years of age, and their families. The clinics also serve as a home base for other public mental health care services that can be delivered in homes, schools and other locations throughout the community. Services include Multi-Systemic Therapy; Dialectical Behavior Therapy; individual, group and family therapy; and medication management services.

“Today marks a major milestone in moving away from a mental health system defined by bricks and mortar toward a system focused on helping people achieve their independence,” Secretary Levine said. “The Governor’s reforms allow families like 12-year-old Shaquill Sears and his mother, Shana Sears, to be able to access individual and family therapy close to their home. Since his transition to Midtown, Ms. Sears says she has been so pleased by Shaquill’s progress and the strides he is making. He is a much happier and healthier child. These services are making a difference.”

In addition to the two new outpatient clinics for children and adolescents, DHH’s Office of Mental Health works with Family Service of Greater New Orleans to provide 24-hour mental health care for children with the Child-Adolescent Response Team (CART). CART provides immediate crisis counseling and intervention for children and their families in Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. People concerned with the welfare of a child, including teachers, neighbors, law enforcement and parents, can call a 24-hour hotline to connect to a trained CART team member. That call is followed by an assessment, safety plan (if needed) and follow-up care. Early diagnosis and intervention for children with mental illness or disorders is critical to providing them with appropriate treatment and services needed to live a productive life. Studies show these services are most often best provided in outpatient settings — like those provided by the new clinics.

“Mental Health America of Louisiana has continued to advocate for increased investment in community-based services and is excited that LDH is cutting the ribbon for this clinic today, as well as advancing evidenced-based treatment practices for children and families statewide. Such services have proven to be quite beneficial if implemented, monitored and funded appropriately. Based on research, individual recovery is greater in a community-based model, which means long-term cost savings for taxpayers,” said Mark Thomas, executive director of Mental Health America of Louisiana.

“DHH has proposed a bold expansion of community-based services statewide, shifting our state from institutional care to care closer to home and our communities. It is a welcome and needed shift we must support with the right resources to be successful. NAMI Louisiana has been advocating for these community-based services for some time and we look forward to the difference these new programs will make in people’s lives,” said Jennifer Jantz, executive director of National Alliance for Mental Illness Louisiana.

In addition to driving the state’s progress toward mental health reform for children, Gov. Bobby Jindal has committed $15.3 million in the fiscal year 2010-2011 executive budget for, with the Greater New Orleans area set to receive approximately $3.94 million for expansion of Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT), children’s outpatient services and therapeutic residential beds.

FACT teams provide treatment and support to adults with frequent interaction with law enforcement through services such as medication management, counseling and case management in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes. ACT provides 24-hour treatment and support for Louisianians with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues. FACT and ACT Teams were implemented in Greater New Orleans in 2009 as part of Governor Jindal’s reform efforts, and the Governor has fully funded these initiatives in the proposed 2010-11 executive budget.

Studies have shown that outpatient treatments like Multisystemic Therapy (MST), are far more effective for the individual and much less costly for the state. According to a study in the Mental Health Services Research Journal, MST has been shown to prevent hospitalization for 57 percent of youth in treatment and decreased bed-days by 72 percent. And the state saves an average of $21,000 a year per individual by utilizing MST, according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy-- $7,000 in savings from reduced or prevented hospitalization and an additional $14,000 in additional treatment costs and social impact costs.

“Our efforts to provide treatment and resources outside of institutionalization go far beyond mental health care,” Levine added. “We are facilitating the development of local governing entities for health care services in other communities, just like New Orleans has done. We firmly believe that the most successful health outcomes will occur when the local community has a role and responsibility in the provision of health care services, and when the state supports those efforts through policies that optimize local resources and infrastructure.”

The Metropolitan Human Services District is a prime example of a local governing entity serving a region’s specific needs. Care at human services districts like MHSD extends beyond mental health care services, including treatment for addictive disorders and services for citizens with developmental disabilities.

LDH recently announced that Region IV, the Acadiana Region, is taking steps towards the creation of its own human service district. And officials in Region VI, which includes Alexandria and Central Louisiana, are working with local officials to form the groundwork for their own local governing body for health care services.

LDH has also begun working with the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education and the Office of Juvenile Justice to create a Coordinated System of Care (CSoC) for at risk youth - an evidence-based approach that is part of a national movement to keep children at home, in school, and out of the child welfare and juvenile justice system.

A system of care incorporates a broad, flexible array of services and supports organized into a coordinated network integrating care planning and management across multiple levels, and building meaningful partnerships with families and youth. An important goal is the reduction of highly restrictive out of home placements through the creation and maintenance of coordinated and effective community based services. Coordinated systems of care operating in other states have significantly reduced school drop-out rates, decreased hospitalization, and decreased recidivism among at-risk youth.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.