BATON ROUGE— Gov. Bobby Jindal today signed into law HB 837, which will improve and strengthen the planning and delivery system for mental health and addictive disorder services.  House Bill 837 creates the Office of Behavioral Health within the Department of Health by merging two existing offices, theOffice for Addictive Disorders and the Office of Mental Health.

 “I applaud the legislature for their focus on streamlining state agencies - not just for the sake of smaller government, but for the purpose of making government services more responsive to the needs of the people we serve,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine.  “The goal behind this bill is to better integrate planning and help us implement best practices in the delivery of these critical services."

 “This bill is the end result of a lot of hard work by so many different people who feel passionately about the people they serve and represent,” said Rep. Fred Mills (D-Parks), the author of the bill. Mills personally met with stakeholders and representatives of the Department on numerous occasions to address various concerns and gather input for this bill. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us to successfully merge these two program offices, but I am confident that the end result will be improved access to appropriate mental health and addictive disorder services for the people of this state.”

 The bill consolidates the administrative and planning functions of the two separate offices, while maintaining the expertise and role of the addictive disorder and mental illness practitioners.  It also preserves how professionals are credentialed and licensed to treat addictive disorders or mental illnesses.

 A 12-member advisory committee will be formed to recommend a structure for consolidation, mission and vision, performance measures and expected outcomes, strategy to maximize funding, strategy to coordinate with local districts, and strategy for workforce development.  The Office of Behavioral Health is scheduled to be implemented in July 2010.  This implementation is dependent upon the Joint Health and Welfare Committee’s approval of the advisory committee’s final plan for implementation. The committee will disband after LDH delivers a final status report on the merger in 2011.

 Office for Addictive Disorders Assistant Secretary Mike Duffy said, “The implementation advisory group will produce an administrative structure that will better serve those individuals, families and communities who suffer from addiction, mental illness and co-occurring disorders."

 One of every eight teenagers with a mental illness has a co-occurring addictive disorder, with less than 60 percent diagnosed and treated appropriately.  Fifty to 75 percent of people with a mental illness or an addictive disorder have a co-occurring disorder.

 The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov .

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