Since September 2010, an eight-person board has been preparing for the day when the state Department of Health and Hospitals gives it control over the way behavioral health and developmental disabilities services are provided in the five-parish area.
The board — the Imperial Calcasieu Human Service Authority — is one of several across the state, all the result of a 2008 law passed by the state Legislature.
Tanya McGee, the agency’s executive director, said the new approach to managing health services will benefit the community. “We are turning our programs to tailor-fit our local needs,” she said.
The new agency will bring under one roof the DHH offices that oversee addictive disorders, mental health and residents with disabilities. The budget for the new agency — with its 100 workers — will be about $13 million.
McGee said all of the employees are state workers and will remain that way. “State buildings where services are given will remain the same. There will be state civil service staff. The only thing that changes is that the control will be local,” she said.
Board members who will oversee the agency: chairman, Douglas L. Hebert Jr. (Allen Parish); vice chairman, Susan Dupont (Cameron Parish); secretary, Sandra Gay (Calcasieu Parish); Patricia Farris (Beauregard Parish); Christina Mehal (Jefferson Davis Parish); and governor’s appointees David Palay, Shawn Sabelhaus and Clarence Stewart, treasurer.
Palay said board members have a serious responsibility.
“We are responsible to the community. This way of managing services takes levels of government out.”
McGee said the decisions on programing and funding that are normally made by a bureaucrat in Baton Rouge, will now have an exclusive local perspective.
The agency is preparing for July 2013 when DHH will relinquish full control over behavior health and developmental disabilities services employees and money.
“As our own legal entity we will also be able to obtain funds from other sources through grants and partnerships,” McGee said. “People need to understand, our same core services provided through DHH in past years will remain the same.”
DHH’s Region 5 Offices of Behavioral Health and Citizens with Developmental Disabilities has managed the services for years. Last year, the behavioral health unit served 19,980 people, while 2,203 people with developmental disabilities were served.
Board meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in the authority’s offices at 3505 Fifth Ave., Suite B.
“We can deal with people that are lost and forgotten. Our work can save a life and family. All of those things build a stronger community,” Palay said. “We will demonstrate what can be done with a great idea like this board.”