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River Place Behavioral Health adds adolescent services

LAPLACE — With a shortage of in-patient mental health beds statewide, teenagers in crisis situations often have to sit in emergency rooms with their families, waiting for a safe place to stay.

River Place Behavioral Health Hospital is celebrating the grand opening of its Adolescent Services addition at 500 Rue de Sante in LaPlace. The $5 million expansion provides 22 beds for adolescents ages 13 to 17 in a state of the art facility designed to meet patients’ needs. The expanded services will also add 40 new jobs to the local economy, according to Jeremy Pitzer, River Place Behavioral Health CEO.

“There were no child/adolescent psych beds in the Ochsner system. We had adult beds in several locations and every other specialty inside the Ochsner system, but not for adolescents, so there was a need there,” Pitzer said. “Statewide, the number of children’s beds is very, very low. Oftentimes, kids and their families are sitting in the emergency room waiting for a bed.”

In-patient behavioral health services are crucial for teenagers experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression and severe anxiety, as well as conduct and other behavioral disorders. Healthline estimates that one in three adolescents will meet the criteria of an anxiety disorder by age 18, and teenagers’ mental health challenges have been further exasperated by isolation from friends, adapting to virtual learning and cancellation of social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This project is timely. The demand for adolescent services continues to grow across the state, throughout the Ochsner system and within the region,” Pitzer said. “As we come out of the pandemic, we fully expect that the need for mental health services will rise, and we will rise to the occasion.”

The adolescent services at River Place Behavioral Health are short-term for stabilization, typically lasting 10 days to two weeks. Once stabilized, young people can transition to a lower level of care in an outpatient facility, which would allow them to return home to their families.

The facility provides a warm, welcoming atmosphere to help young adults get on a better path. Patient safety is a top priority with a focus on anti-ligature hardware. Across from the state of the art nurses’ station is a “noisy activity” space for watching TV and hanging out. Patients can also go to a “quiet activity” space for a peaceful environment. Other features include group therapy space and an outdoor courtyard/basketball court.

Pitzer said the focus on safety at the River Place Behavioral Health facility extended to COVID-19 protocols. He can count on one hand, without using all five fingers, the amount of COVID positive patients that have been in the building in the past year.

St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard is grateful for all of the medical professionals who have worked day in and day out under extenuating circumstances to care for their patients.

“I’m thankful that Ochsner has stepped up and recognized that there is a need for in patient behavioral health services for 13- to 17-year-olds. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Office can tell you there are some needs of our juveniles that are not being met, and a lot of it is stemming from behavioral health issues. They aren’t bad kids,” Hotard said. “This is a step in the right direction, and obviously it’s an economic development step as well with hiring individuals and creating jobs and sustainability in and around the community.”

Hotard added that Ochsner has been responsive to all of the community’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis and helped to quickly implement drive thru testing sites early in the pandemic.

Stephen Robinson Jr., CEO of Ochsner Medical Center – Kenner, said the addition of adolescent services at River Place Behavior Health is a tremendous milestone in Ochsner’s River Region presence.

“Just over six years ago, we made a commitment at Ochsner to invest $30 million in the community. As a result, we really have transformed care here locally. We’ve been able to build a brand new medical complex down the street with a state of the art emergency room, diagnostics center and all new equipment to be able to serve the needs of this community,” Robinson said.

“Just three years ago, we opened up this beautiful facility. Our partnership with Acadia has been a tremendous asset to all of our patients. Behavioral health is such an ongoing concern in our state, and to have additional access here for not just this community but the entire region, has been such an important advancement.”