Children's Hospital wants out of NOAH lease; hopes to purchase - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Children's Hospital wants out of NOAH lease; hopes to purchase

Former site of New Orleans Adolescent Hospital uptown. Former site of New Orleans Adolescent Hospital uptown.

New Orleans, La. — Representatives of Children's Hospital went before the City Council in hopes of clearing the air about the hospital's plans for the former New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, known as NOAH.

The state closed NOAH in 2009 despite a public outcry. NOAH provided mental health services for area children and adolescents.

Children's Hospital officials appeared before the council Thursday to say that the hospital has always wanted to purchase the NOAH site and use it to expand current hospital services.

"Think about it -- it's for the most noble of causes. We take care of kids, we need to expand to take care of the demands that are current," said Brian Landry, VP of marketing at Children's Hospital, in answering questions from the news media at City Hall.

Last month, State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans appeared before the council and said that a lease agreement had been signed by the hospital and the state ensuring that inpatient and outpatient services would return to the NOAH site.

"We've reached an agreement and I have it here today, as part of that agreement, Children's Hospital has agreed to reopen NOAH and to provide the outpatient, inpatient services for our children and adolescents who are suffering from some sort of mental health illness," Abramson said on March 21.

But Children's Hospital officials said, even though they signed the lease agreement on January 25, 2013, they never planned to restore mental health services to the NOAH site because the hospital offers those services at the former DePaul Hospital site on Calhoun Street.

"It will cost over $20 million to upgrade the building to accommodate the services that we're already providing four blocks away at our Calhoun Campus," Landry said in addressing council members.

Contacted later in the day, Rep. Abramson said language in the lease the hospital signed plainly states that mental health services were to be returned to the NOAH location.

"The state law is very clear that there is a mental health component as part of the lease Children's Hospital signed. What is important to me is that we have full health care services for our children and adolescents that includes physical health care and mental health care. We have a significant deficiency in mental health care services in New Orleans," said Abramson.

Children's Hospital is banking on a new bill awaiting consideration in the recently started 2013 legislative session. It would allow the hospital to buy the NOAH site and use it as it sees fit for health care services.

"We communicated that to the New Orleans [legislative] delegation, we invited them out to the hospital, we gave them a tour, we told them that we signed the lease, we told them that if we could not get the bill passed that we would cancel the lease, so there was no mis-communication in terms of what Children's Hospital set out as absolute fact," Landry stated.

Children's pointed to the following clause in the lease as proof it can get out of the lease it signed earlier this year:

This Lease agreement may be terminated (1) at any time within the Ninety-Nine (99) year Term by mutual agreement, or (2) for cause arising from a breach of the Lease Agreement, or (3) with or without cause, prior to the 20th of June, 2013, upon five (5) days written notice.

But some people in the community who fought to keep NOAH from closing in the first place believe Children's Hospital should be forced to live up to the terms of the lease it signed.

"If Children's Hospital, no matter what they're saying today, if they signed a lease, to me that's a legal contract," said Pat Roy, who was president of the now-former Friends of NOAH.

That aside, she said their concern was always first and foremost about adequate mental health services. "If it's better to provide them at DePaul's that's okay, but if they signed a contract to provide services my expectation is that those services be provided," she said.

"We're committed to behavioral health," Landry said.

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