La. Jails Serving As De Facto Mental Wards


St. Tammany and surrounding Louisiana parishes lack enough facilities to treat mental patients, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Elected officials are forming a task force with local and state health officials to find a solution. The lack of facilities is straining emergency rooms at public and private hospitals, which are not staffed to handle mental patients, and turning local jails into de facto mental wards, state Sen. Tom Schedler said. Patients who need only mental health care flood emergency rooms “while others are there to get regular care,” Schedler said. “Our law enforcement officers have no place to put the vagrants and petty criminals” who have mental problems.

Slidell Mayor Ben Morris, who was police chief for 12 years, said something desperately needs to be done. The Slidell city jail has had to keep football helmets and straightjackets on hand to place on mental patients who have had to stay there. “We had one man who ate his own feces for two weeks,” Morris said, “but we had no place to take him.”


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