After East Baton Rouge Parish voters approved a tax increase to fund a mental health crisis center beginning in the year 2020, philanthropists and the mayor's office hope to find a way to set up the center faster.
Parish officials spent Monday preparing for new tax revenue earmarked for the Bridge Center for mental health and for road improvements. Similar proposals had failed at the polls previously but versions on Saturday's ballot won significant support from the 26 percent or registered voters who participated in the election.
A pair of tax proposals for road improvements and a mental health facility cruised to easy victories in Saturday's election.
The Bridge Center will provide 30 beds where law enforcement can bring people who are disruptive and potentially dangerous but need urgent psychiatric attention rather than time in a jail cell. Right now, the only options are an emergency room or jail.
The center won a 10-year, 1.5-mill property tax over the weekend. However, the non-profit won't receive any of the funds until 2020 and is asking the city-parish for a loan to begin hiring staff and buying equipment for the facility tentatively planned to open shop on the campus of Baton Rouge General-Mid City.
The city-parish will give what it can but still needs to meet with the Bridge Center to work out what it needs and how the loan would be repaid, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said.
Funding could come from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. BRAF paid for studies that laid the groundwork for the Bridge Center and will ask supporters to help it open more quickly, Vice President John Spain said.
Perhaps half a million dollars would be needed to open the facility and run it temporarily, Spain estimated. It will also take six to nine months to set up the site and hire the necessary staff, Bridge Center Chairwoman Kathy Kliebert has said.
District Attorney Hillar Moore has been an ardent supporter of the Bridge Center. By agreeing to fund it, voters gave a Christmas present to themselves, he said.
The DA's office is working with judges and law enforcement to speed up the process by which offenders are formally charged or having their cases dismissed, Moore said. It can currently take a month or two to arraign people after they're arrested.
The DA wants to give officers 24 hours to provide an initial report, 24 hours for his office to review the file and make a determination on charges, and 24 hours for a judge to accept or reject the charges, Moore said. He hopes to implement the new deadlines by April.
Health and law enforcement leaders hope to open a new psychiatric crisis center on Baton Rouge General Hospital’s mid-city campus — assuming t…
Bridge Center advocates have said a typical stay would probably be around three or four days to stabilize a patient. That timeline will line up with Moore's expedited arraignment plan.
Some offenders would be released from the Bridge Center to jail, but many people who are taken to the center won't wind up in Parish Prison. Nationally, DAs who accept all cases decide from the outset not to prosecute about 30 percent of all cases, Moore said.
If the offender receives treatment at the Bridge Center and agrees to a treatment plan, that may be enough to satisfy the prosecutor and victim — who is often a family member — without taking the matter to trial. Then the offender can be released to a halfway house or healthcare professional instead of Parish Prison, Moore said.