State’s mentally ill finally getting break

<p class="indent">Louisiana is being pushed to do a better job caring for and treating its mentally ill, those who may not belong in nursing homes and youngsters in alternative schools. An investigation and studies have shown problems in both areas.</p><p class="indent">Court documents indicate at least 3,800 people, or 14.5 percent of all nursing home residents in 2016 were mentally ill. The state is getting a $9 million federal grant to address mental health problems among students, especially those in alternative schools.</p><p class="indent">The goal for the mentally ill in nursing homes is to determine how many of them would be better served in home and community settings. The Advocate said a two-year investigation determined Louisiana violated the Americans for Disabilities Act because of over-reliance on nursing homes for those who are mentally ill.</p><p class="indent">The state is going to have to come up with funding to invest in home and community-based programs that will help those willing and able to move out of nursing homes. Louisiana has one of the highest percentages of adults with serious mental illnesses living in nursing homes, and it has to do better.</p><p class="indent">As for students, a report by a 39-member panel of superintendents and others last year said school officials are too quick to toss students with behavior problems and most of them fail to get the help they need when assigned to alternative schools. The Advocate said the statewide dropout rate in grades 7-12 is 4 percent, but it is 19 percent in alternative schools.</p><p class="indent">Doris Voitier, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish School District and a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said many of those alternative school students have family and mental health issues that impede student progress. She said the federal grant will allow for an expansion of current partnerships with the LSU Medical School and the Methodist Hospital Foundation.</p><p class="indent">The state will receive $1.8 million annually for five years. It will allow the state to set up a comprehensive mental health support program for schools supervised by the state Department of Education and state Department of Health.</p><p class="indent">Increased emphasis on how Louisiana treats its mentally ill is welcome news for its older and younger citizens who have had to wait much too long for the care they need and deserve.</p>””Mental Health grant