About the Tax
$1.50 per month to save lives…
On Dec. 8, the East Baton Rouge Parish ballot will include a property tax to fund a mental health crisis stabilization center. The proposed tax is 1.5 mills, which equals about $1.50 per month for someone who owns a $200,000 home in the parish. The center is estimated to save the East Baton Rouge Parish community $55 million over 10 years.
Annual proceeds from the 10-year tax would be used by The Bridge Center for Hope (Bridge Center) to operate the stabilization center. The Bridge Center is a nonprofit that is overseen by law enforcement and mental health professionals, including District Attorney Hillar Moore and former Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals head Kathy Kliebert.
What the tax pays for
The tax would pay for the creation and operation of a mental health crisis stabilization center and its services. The purpose of the center is to stabilize people with mental illness or related substance abuse issues and connect them with care providers for the treatment they need. Specifically, the center would be staffed by experienced mental health professionals to either provide or coordinate the following services:
Mobile Assessment Team - that will respond to law-enforcement calls and assess level of service intervention needed.
Sobering Beds - where people under the influence of drugs or alcohol can safely reach sobriety and then be referred to a detox program.
Medical Detoxification - where people withdrawing from substance dependence are evaluated and medically managed, and physical harm to them from detoxification process is minimized.
Behavioral Health Respite - for evaluating and stabilizing people experiencing a psychiatric crisis.
Care Management Team - to provide ongoing community support and care management interventions to high users of the behavioral health and criminal justice systems.
Crisis Intervention Services - providing text, chat, and telephonic services for individuals in crisis to call for help and be referred to an appropriate therapy provider. The Bridge Center is currently providing this service in the community through ViaLink, a reputable crisis hotline service.
Pre-Trial Release - will mean the expansion of an existing program administered by the Bridge Center to divert nonviolent people with mental illness or substance abuse programs to treatment instead of more expensive imprisonment or emergency room care.
Benefits to our community
Too often, voters are told they have to choose between the good of the community on the one hand and fiscal responsibility on the other. This December, Baton Rouge voters will have the rare opportunity to embrace both: they can pass a modest property tax to fund a mental health treatment center for people in crisis and save taxpayer money at the same time.
IT SAVES TIME
Currently, EBR law enforcement officers have nowhere to take people with mental illness or drug addiction except to jail or emergency rooms. There are no alternatives. Justice officials agree: it’s expensive, not to mention cruel, to lock up sick people instead of treating them.
IT SAVES MONEY
The mental health crisis stabilization center would produce $55 million in savings for the local justice system over a decade, according to an independent estimate that is based on a successful program in San Antonio. To make sure the savings are real, Baton Rouge has modeled its mental health treatment center after the one in San Antonio, which has been replicated in other cities to great effect.
IT SAVES LIVES
The most important benefit of the tax: people you and know and love – your family and friends – will be able to break through the darkness, escape the cycle of going from crisis to crisis, and receive treatment for their mental illness or related drug addictions instead of being locked up and put in dangerous situations. That’s humane and something we can be proud of.