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Louisiana plans to expand mental health crisis care services

A large percentage of adults reported feeling depressed and anxiety
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 9:41 PM CDT
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Unidentifiable adults standing around.
Unidentifiable adults standing around.(Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The pandemic and catastrophic hurricanes appear to have exacerbated mental health problems in Louisiana and the state is preparing to launch more comprehensive services.

The COVID-19 health crisis has put pressure on more than just hospitals and health care workers.

Karen Stubbs is assistant secretary of the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health.

“We definitely believe everyone has, their mental health has suffered beginning with the pandemic, and then in Louisiana, we were unfortunate enough to have the pandemic coupled with major severe weather events and demolition of infrastructure. The stress that, that compounded was just beyond belief,” said Stubbs.

At the state capitol this week, Melissa Martin, Director of Well-Ahead Louisiana commented on the mental health crisis in the state as she addressed a task force that is focused on health outcomes in the state.

“A higher proportion of Louisianans experience poor mental health compared to the United States and Louisiana has a higher rate of suicide compared to the United States,” said Martin.

Stubbs says the state’s 24/7 “Keep Calm” hotline went online early in the pandemic.

“We did this as soon as COVID in March of 2020 began we immediately recognized that this is going to be an extremely high stress and anxiety-provoking event,” said Stubbs.

And she said starting in early 2022 the state will roll out more comprehensive crisis services.

“And they include services like a crisis mobile team which is really just going to benefit everyone in Louisiana, it’ll be used as a divergence from the emergency room or from law enforcement. It will be trained crisis counselors and peers who go to the person in crisis,” said Stubbs.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 47.5% of adults in Louisiana reported anxiety or depression earlier this year.

Mental health problems do not discriminate age-wise.

“We’ve seen parents really affected, we’ve seen people with pre-existing mental health conditions also really affected and children have also really taken the brunt of this mental health crisis during the pandemic,” Stubbs stated.

But fear of being stigmatized keeps some people from getting help.

“You know, stigma in the mental health arena, it’s really real and it’s intense and it is often the reason why people themselves, but also their families don’t reach out to get help,” said Stubbs.

The pandemic she says has helped to raise awareness.

“And that has done a little bit to really help address some of the stigma in reaching out and getting help. You cannot reach out soon enough.”

The number to the “Keep Calm” Hotline is 1-866-310-7977 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

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