State Sen. Jack Donahue has asked for an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of Gov. Bobby Jindal closing a mental health hospital in Mandeville without getting legislative approval.
In the opinion request, Donahue also questions the allocation of the proceeds from sale of some of the Southeast Louisiana Hospital’s land. The Senate Finance Committee chairman argues that a state law he sponsored requires money generated to be used for maintenance and operations of the hospital. That money could be used to keep the hospital open, the Mandeville Republican said.
Attorney general’s opinions are of an advisory nature and do not carry the weight of law.
Southeast is scheduled to close in October as part of Jindal’s plan to close an $859 million budget hole that developed when Congress suddenly reduced the federal contribution to the state’s Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.
The patients at Southeast are scheduled to be moved to other facilities, including East Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson, and some 500 employees laid off.
The reduction came after the Legislature had approved the state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
“I’m well aware of the state’s budgetary concerns and constraints, but closing a mental health facility in a parish with one of the state’s highest suicide rates is unwise, to say the least,” Donahue said in a news release his office released Friday. “There must be another way to keep this facility open while still operating in a fiscally responsible manner.”
State Department of Health and Hospitals officials did not respond Friday to a request seeking comment by deadline.
Donahue said a law he sponsored authorizing the sale of some undeveloped Southeast campus land requires the money to be deposited in the state Department of Health and Hospitals Facility Support Fund.
“The state’s recent sale of land on the hospital site generated revenue that should be used to continue funding its operation, according to the bill I authored and the governor signed four years ago. I want to do everything possible to keep Southeast Hospital open.”
Donahue said he and other local officials are seeking other funding to keep the hospital open.