Employees facing layoffs at the state’s mental health hospital in Mandeville will be eligible for a $500 pay bonus if they keep working until the hospital’s closure.
The state Civil Service Commission on Wednesday approved the “incentive award” after the director of the Southeast Louisiana Hospital reported increased absenteeism and employee turnover in areas important to the direct care of the mental patients living there.
The one-time, lump-sum payment will cost an estimated $225,000.
As of Monday, Southeast had 476 positions filled out of 563 authorized. On Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Hospitals started transferring 94 patient beds to Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville and Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System in Jackson. Those moves are expected to be completed by Oct. 31.
DHH is still identifying private partners in the New Orleans and Northshore areas to take over the remaining 17 adult beds and 50 child-youth beds. Those relocations are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.
DHH officials have previously said among those expressing interest in providing the care are Lakeview Regional Medical Center and Greenbriar Hospital in Covington and Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.
The commission also got a report on Florida Parishes Human Services Authority plans to seek proposals for privatization of its residential alcohol and drug treatment program which must cease operations on the Southeast campus with closure of the mental hospital.
The commission will eventually have to approve the plan because some 30 employees of the Fountainbleau Treatment Center would lose their jobs.
State agency director Melanie Watkins said it is too expensive for the authority, which serves Livingston, Tangipahoa and other area parishes, to operate the 64 beds at another location.
Watkins said the authority would lose the cost break it gets in leasing space and for dietary, security and other needs as it leaves the Southeast campus.
“We have the opportunity to stay until the end of June — the end of the fiscal year,” Watkins said. “But when all the (mental health) patients move we won’t have any supportive services in place.”
Contracting those support services out such as dietary and security “would be prolonging the inevitable because by the end of June we have to be gone,” she said.
“You are working on what reality is,” Commission Chairman David Duplantier said.
“I think you are smart in what you are doing. You have to have this in your arsenal of options,” said commission member Lee Griffin of Baton Rouge.
“We regret we feel this is necessary at this point and time,” Watkins said.
She said the Florida Parishes agency did a budget analysis of continuing operations in-house but found it cost prohibitive. She said there would be a $200,000 savings through privatization compared to current costs and more than that compared to the authority continuing treatment operations at another site.
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