State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, hosted a meeting at the State Capitol on Jan. 30 to focus on the One Mind Campaign, which seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and peeople with mental illnesses.
“Louisiana has the highest incarceration rates in the world. Our goal should be to reduce arrests and emergency room visits of nonviolent offenders by helping law enforcement connect with behavioral health professionals and other treatment centers,” Hodges said.
The campaign’s initiative focuses on uniting local communities, public safety organizations and mental health organizations so the three become "of one mind," a news release said.
The meeting sought to determine barriers for crisis response teams in the region. Key to the discussion was Jan Kosofsky, of Capital Area Human Services, and Jan Tarantino, of Resource for Human Development.
This was the first follow-up meeting to the One Mind Campaign Symposium in August 2016. Area first responders, the East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President's Office and other elected and appointed officials, as well as representatives from the behavioral health community attended. Cmdr. Lawrence Callender, of Homeland Security Investigations and assistant chief of police for French Settlement, facilitated the discussion on opioids, which included data reported by East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William "Beau" Clark. The two-hour meeting ended with a presentation by BioCoRx, a company that supports Medication Assisted Treatment with its own product line.
Col. Lawrence McLeary, of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, reported 2,100 inmates are incarcerated through the Sheriff's Office, which includes 800 inmates diagnosed with mental illness and 1,100 inmates diagnosed with opioid addiction.
"We could be saving millions of taxpayers' dollars by developing alternatives, like crisis response teams, to assist with nonviolent offenders. We should be using our resources to treat the disease and help them become productive members of our society again," Hodges said.
Hodges said she is considering legislation for the 2018 legislative session that would allow treatment for mental health issues to be included in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections' substance abuse probation program.