Children’s Hospital still wants NOAH site, operators say

Children’s Hospital officials told the City Council this week that they still want to buy the former New Orleans Adolescent Hospital but cannot afford to restore its former mental-health services for children and teens.

Instead, the hospital plans to use the site for expanded outpatient services, Children’s spokesman Brian Landry said during a brief presentation before the council.

The hospital had hoped to take control of the NOAH site from the state and earlier this year signed a lease with a purchase option. However, an amendment to a Senate bill that would have allowed that added a provision to the lease that required Children’s to restore mental-health services NOAH offered before the state closed it in 2009.

State Rep. Neil Abramson has said there is a need for more child and adolescent mental health care in the city.

Abramson recently went before the council and trumpeted the news that Children’s would take control of the site and restore the services since that is a provision of the lease. The hospital, however, quickly noted that it did not intend to do that and instead signed the lease to keep open its options for the site.

Dr. Andrew Williams, Children’s director of behavioral health, y told the council Thursday that on most days the beds at Children’s DePaul Campus on Calhoun Street can accommodate the demand. He added that hospital staff are “always assessing the need” for more beds.

Dueling bills prefiled for the legislative session could either allow Children’s to lease the closed NOAH site without restoring the mental-health services or force the hospital out of its existing lease if it does not.

Landry said it would cost $20 million to upgrade the NOAH site to offer its former services. That is a price tag Children’s cannot afford, he said. Children’s instead could purchase the NOAH site for $29 million and better serve its patients, Landry said.

“We only have so much money, and we have a responsibility to the community as well,” he said.