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River Place Behavioral Health finds success in healing: Open house addresses mental health stigma, facility shortages

LAPLACE — Since its early 2018 opening, River Place Behavioral Health has offered countless patients acute stabilization and protection in a peaceful environment, according to medical director Dr. Dean Hickman.

“The hospital has accomplished just what it was intended to do,” Hickman said. “It has alleviated a significant degree of the shortage of mental health beds in South Louisiana, as this is an 82-bed facility. No longer do we have people with psychiatric disorders waiting days in the emergency room for proper placement.”

Located at 500 Rue de Sante in LaPlace, River Place Behavioral Health is a joint venture between Ochsner Health System and Acadia Healthcare. It is the only behavioral health hospital in the River Parishes, according to Faith Boudoin, director of business development at River Place.

The nearest facility in Kenner has less than half the number of beds, she said.

Therapists, physicians and clinicians from across Louisiana visited River Place Behavioral Health for an open house Friday afternoon, where they had a chance to view the facility and learn about how the accommodations could benefit their patients.

With approximately 1 in 5 adults experiencing mental illness any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the need is great for behavioral health treatment.

“We just want people to be familiar with us as a facility,” Boudoin said. “It’s really a beautiful facility. You can look around and see that everything is new. If people come out and see it, we feel certain that they would be more prone to send their patients here for treatment.”

River Place Behavioral Health includes four units servicing geriatric patients, adult patients of varying acuity levels, and patients who have demonstrated drug or substance abuse in addition to a primary psychiatric diagnosis.

Each unit has features tailored to the patient population, including wheel-chair accessible sidewalks and seating areas for older patients. Patient rooms are optimized for safety, free of sharp edges and ligature. Wide, well-lit hallways have been included so patients do not feel trapped or enclosed.

Patients are treated through individual and group therapy sessions, and meditative spaces help patients realign themselves in a calm space free from daily stressors.

“Patients come here on a referral from a physician, or we can even accept walk-ins,” Boudoin said. “As long as patients are medically stable, River Place is a fit for them. We’re not a hospital in that way, so we can’t treat them for dialysis or a medical condition. We’re treating for behavioral issues.”

Doctors check in with patients to make sure their medication is stabilized and treatment is progressing.

Boudoin said every day is a success when a patients checks out of River Place, showing they are ready to reintegrate into society and function on their own.

River Place is partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness – New Orleans, Ochsner and other mental health entities to fight the stigma of mental illness.

“It’s interesting that mental health, behavioral health discussions are becoming more prominent, and yet there is still a stigma attached to it,” Boudoin said. “No one really wants to talk about it, and it’s unfortunate because they can’t really get the care that they need if something’s wrong and they can’t talk about it.”

However, Hickman said there is hope that the attitude of the world is changing. Now, former patients come up to him in public and introduce themselves to his family without hesitation.

“That didn’t happen 15 years ago,” Hickman said. “The take home message about stigma is that mental illness is a treatable condition. 50 years ago, we didn’t have the degree of medication and treatment types that we have available to us now.”

For more information, visit riverplacebh.com or call 985-303-2327.