Children’s Hospital disputes claim they will reopen NOAH

Shortly after state Rep. Neil Abramson told the New Orleans City Council that Children’s Hospital will reopen the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital and restore mental-health services for children and teenagers here, the hospital said it was “puzzled” by his announcement.

Abramson gave out copies of a 99-year lease between the state, which owns NOAH, and Children’s Hospital during Thursday’s council meeting.

The agreement means there will once again be mental health care for children and adolescents in New Orleans, Abramson told the council.

The state, which owns the hospital in Uptown, closed it in 2009 citing economic conditions. More than 30 patients were sent to other facilities, including Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.

Thursday afternoon, though, Children’s Hospital released a statement disputing that it would reopen NOAH and restore the services it once provided.

The hospital said it does treat mental health at its Calhoun Campus, which formerly housed DePaul Hospital. Children’s Hospital will “continue to address and expand mental health services on this campus,” the statement reads in part.

The hospital has more than 240,000 patient visits each year, according to the statement, and the neighboring NOAH property is “vitally needed to accommodate our growing demand. Children’s Hospital recently leased the NOAH campus, which affords us the opportunity to continue negotiations with the state to purchase the property,” the statement reads.

The state and Children’s Hospital entered into their agreement Jan. 25, according to a copy of the lease Abramson provided.

“We have been having ongoing conversations with Rep. Neil Abramson and recently met with him and other members of the New Orleans delegation. We articulated the hospital’s position that relocating mental health services from the Calhoun Campus to the deteriorated NOAH campus would not be economically feasible,” Children’s Hospital’s statement continues. “We will continue to provide mental health services on the Calhoun Campus.

“We are puzzled that Rep. Abramson would make a public announcement without consultation with our leadership. We hope that he will meet with us shortly to explain the reasons for his announcement.”

Contacted Thursday afternoon, Abramson said he wasn’t sure what there was to discuss with hospital officials.

The lease, he noted, includes a clause that appears to bind Children’s Hospital into reopening and operating NOAH.

The lease reads that Children’s Hospital must operate the property in according with an act passed during the 2012 legislative session that says “the property shall be administered, managed and operated as a facility for health care, mental health care, or health care or mental health care education.

“The portion of the property described in ... this act that formerly housed the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital shall be administered, managed and operated so as to provide mental health care including in-patient and out-patient services consistent with those services provided by the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital prior to 2010,” the act reads.

“It’s black and white in the signed lease agreement,” Abramson said. “I don’t know how they could be puzzled if they signed a lease in accordance with state law about how that property should be handled.”

While Abramson said he has always remained open to more discussions, he said his “single focus is on more mental health for children and adolescents in New Orleans.”

Statistics show that about 75 percent of children with specific psychiatric referrals are not given an opportunity for inpatient services, Abramson told the council earlier in the day.

“Sending them to Mandeville, Alexandria or even out-of-state, far from home, is not a solution,” Abramson said. “It really just adds to the problem.”