The planned closure of the state mental health hospital at Mandeville is having spin-off effects.
Southeast Louisiana State Hospital’s director is seeking state Civil Service approval to pay employees facing future layoffs a $500 bonus to stay until the job actions occur, citing increased absenteeism and staff turnover. In addition, efforts are under way to privatize a separate residential drug and alcohol abuse treatment facility located on the same campus.
“We want to make sure that we have staffing ratios that assure the safety and quality of services of residents,” state Department of Health and Hospitals Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Monday.
The 64-bed alcohol and drug treatment facility, operated by the Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, serves an average of 846 clients annually from Livingston, Tangipahoa and other area parishes. Thirty state employees would be laid off with the change.
With closure of Southeast, authority executive director Melanie Watkins said it is no longer cost-effective for the state entity to operate the Fontainebleau Treatment Center.
“With the closure of the facility (Southeast) and discontinuance of supportive services including food services, laundry, etc., we have determined that privatization is the optimal course of action at this time based on a cost-benefit analysis,” Watkins wrote Civil Service executive director Shannon Templet.
Watkins did not return a telephone message seeking comment Monday.
The Jindal administration targeted Southeast for closure as part of efforts to balance its $25 billion state operating budget after federal support for the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor dropped. Southeast will transfer 60 beds to Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville and 34 beds to East Louisiana Mental Health System at Jackson.
DHH is in the process of identifying private sector providers in the New Orleans and Northshore areas for the remaining 67 beds: 17 adult and 50 child-youth. Private hospital bed relocation is expected to be complete by Dec. 31.
Southeast Louisiana State Hospital employees were initially notified of the planned closure July 13. There are 476 positions filled out of 563 authorized. There is usually a higher turnover in direct-care positions, Kliebert said.
“As can be expected during such a transition, SELH has begun to experience increased absenteeism, staff turnover and additional staffing challenges,” Southeast chief executive officer Richard Kramer said.
Kramer has asked Civil Service to approve a “retention strategy” that would allow employees to be paid a one-time $500 incentive award if they meet certain requirements and agree to stay.
The estimated cost for implementation is $225,000.
DHH has not yet submitted a Southeast employee layoff plan to Civil Service.
Transfer of some 60 clients to Central are scheduled to begin Tuesday and a week later a two-step process starts to transfer 34 clients to East, DHH spokeswoman Meghan Speakes said.
Southeast employees were given the chance to apply for jobs at Central and East. Central offered 46 employees positions and six accepted while East made 44 job offers and 33 accepted, Speakes said.
The Florida Parishes Human Services Authority has advised Civil Service of its intention to privatize residential substance abuse treatment services currently located on the Southeast grounds. The facility offers 40 male treatment beds and 24 female beds.
Civil Service must approve any privatization plan and the authority must demonstrate a cost-savings.
The projected cost of privatizing the program is $2.4 million annually based on the rate that DHH is paying for the services. The annual cost of the current Southeast based program is $2.6 million annually.
If the authority moved the services elsewhere and maintained program operation, the cost would be $600,000 a year higher, the report said.
The authority is one of five organizations performing behavioral health services on the Southeast campus. Others are Methodist Children’s Home, the St. Tammany Parish School Board, the National Alliance on Mental Illness St. Tammany and Mental Health Advocacy Program.
DHH has said the groups have until at least June 20 to relocate.