BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) — There are growing concerns about an upcoming psychiatric hospital project in North Baton Rouge.
The new facility could be located in the Glen Oaks neighborhood, right next to Forest Heights Academy of Excellence and a few blocks from Glen Oaks High School.
But it’s who might be housed there that now interests lawmakers.
According to forms submitted to the Louisiana Department of Health, the facility would be a 118-bed intermediate psychiatric facility.
They would care for the adult population with serious and persistent mental disorders, including “those who are forensically involved in aggressive/dangerous behavior and who have been civilly committed after being found unfit to continue their trial”.
Sandra Collins’ home is directly across from Central Specialty Plaza, which would become the home of the new facility.
“It’s pretty quiet, we have neighborhood watch with police back and forth, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Collins said.
She has lived in the Glen Oaks area for 17 years and is concerned about the proposed facility.
“Really, I lost a bit of sleep on that, you know, looking out the window, coming to the window, making sure everything’s safe here and everything,” Collins said.
The news spread quickly in North Baton Rouge, from neighbors to state lawmakers.
“My main concern would be safety. How strong will the security be. I don’t think it’s a good place for that, I’m not okay with that,” said neighbor Paula Hills.
“I don’t think this is the place for this type of facility, and I don’t support it,” said State Senator Regina Barrow of District 15.
Metro councilor Darryl Hurst says all he was told in December was that it would be a healthcare facility that would bring well-paying jobs to the area.
“It’s a mental institution, it’s not a prison, so there’s no barbed wire. These are people who may have been tried for serial murder and serial rape but were not fit to go through with a trial, so they were sent to a facility that could house them,” Hurst said.
The facility is right next to Forest Highs Academy, which also raises concerns among parents and educators.
“I don’t think it’s a good choice for our district, I don’t think it’s a good choice for the community. But more so, I don’t think it’s the right fit to be next to a school in any district, not just my district,” Councilor Hurst said.
We are told that the operator of the proposed facility is Collis Temple Jr.
WAFB attempted to reach him several times on Tuesday, January 17 to learn more about his plans for the facility, but heard nothing from him.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a strong advocate for people with mental health. But I believe putting a facility of this magnitude in a community, where for me, is sort of creating a recipe for disaster,” Senator Barrow said.
Now the neighbors are wondering what this facility means for their future in the community.
“If they do, I think I’ll move. It’s not worth the risk, it’s not worth my life,” Collins said.
WAFB’s Lester Duhe spoke with EBR School Board Chairman Dadrius Lanus, who believes the school system can’t legally do anything about it. But, he says, officials are weighing all of their options right now to see if they can work with the owner to alleviate the problem.
To learn more about the Department of Health’s Proposed Facility Information Request, click here.
A community meeting will be held on Saturday, January 21 at 10:00 a.m. at Forest Heights Academy.
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