Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jindal, OMH Decimating Outpatient Psych Services Too

Remember back when Gov. Jindal, DHH Secretary Alan Levine, and top OMH officials assured us that by closing New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) they were freeing up $14 million to "improve much-needed outpatient services"? I can't help but assume that money never made it down to the outpatient clinics I work at everyday because no one in Baton Rouge wants to even pay for us to have voicemail, and it's not because they're paying to lease clinic space after removing us from the space we had at NOAH. The lease at our cramped new digs is $0 where, incidentally, they have consolidated so many employees that the power goes out 3-5 times a day from the now overloaded circuits. Try faxing in a prescription authorization to pharmacies when the power goes out whenever you hit "Send," or when that telephone/fax line periodically goes dead. When I receive a call, I have to walk down the hall because we can't transfer calls to each other despite being in the same building; and while I'm on the phone, no one else can call. OK, actually that's not true. People can still call us but that call goes immediately to a voicemail system that no one from here to Baton Rouge can tell us how to access. All we can do is hope none of those are urgent, which is a fantasy since we serve very ill, troubled youths. Actual assistance or a simple acknowledgment of these problems from OMH are also fantasies much of the time.

We serve the same number of clients even though we have fewer therapists. They left because they were fed up with this sort of foolishness, but they won't be replaced because of Jindal's hiring freeze even though the state has already budgeted for those positions just like they budgeted for all that money closing NOAH was supposed to free up.

Working at a place where your co-workers, even some of the ones making close to six figures, openly discuss finding a new job and share job leads with one another can be nerve-racking. That sort of stress will complicate any job but especially when your job is helping others deal with their own constant psychological stress.

A story about continuing cuts to healthcare in Louisiana is, interestingly, posted to a web page titled Accidents & Disasters. I fear we'll being seeing more of those in the near future. Not just the spectacular, front-page headline kind, but also the excruciating, painful type of tragedy that slowly and quietly ruins families' lives. If you need an example, think of the economic and social ruin left in the wake of an Orleans Parish school system starved of basic necessities. Talk to anyone now in the position of trying to provide state-funded services within LA's Office of Mental Health(OMH). Ask them how employee morale is these days. I should know. I am one of them.

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