New Orleans – On Feb. 11, 2008, the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) began opening 20 additional psychiatric beds to increase its capacity to serve New Orleans residents and combat the shortage of mental health care services throughout the city.

Pre-Katrina, NOAH had 30 beds, serving only children and adolescents.  Currently, NOAH has 35 beds available for inpatient psychiatric care.  Twenty of these beds are reserved for adults and 15 for children and adolescents. With this most recent addition, the hospital will have a new total of 55 beds (40 for adults, 15 for children and adolescents).

According to Mr. William Payne, assistant secretary of the Department of Health – Office of Mental Health, “The occupancy rate at NOAH was 96 percent in 2007.  These beds are almost always full.  Opening up 20 new beds is critical to providing mental health services in the city because it will help to reduce waiting time for patients who require hospitalization.”

NOAH did not treat adult patients before Katrina, but has since added bed space for adults due to the overwhelming need for mental health services in New Orleans.  In 2007, 407 adult patients and 222 children were admitted at NOAH.  The average length of stay for a patient was 18.2 days.

NOAH was the first public mental health inpatient facility to re-open after Katrina within New Orleans and remains at the forefront of providing these vital services to a population in great need.  Prior to NOAH’s re-opening, people with mental illnesses were either not treated, were seen and discharged from hospital emergency rooms or were transferred to hospitals elsewhere in the state.  LDH Secretary Alan Levine recognizes that additional work is still needed to bring the mental health system in New Orleans back to pre-Katrina levels.

“The challenge of restoring vital mental health care to the city of New Orleans is a commitment to which our Office of Mental Health remains dedicated,” said Levine.  “In the future, we’re looking toward establishing an additional 100 psychiatric beds throughout the state with funding recently approved by the Legislature.”

Before Katrina, the four-parish New Orleans area had a total of 507 inpatient psychiatric hospital beds at 17 locations.  After the storm shuttered the doors of most facilities, state health officials and private hospitals spent two and a half years working to raise that number up to its current 225 beds at 9 locations.

To care for the overflow of patients from the New Orleans area, a total of 158 new beds were also opened throughout the state among University Hospital, Moss Regional Medical Center, Greenwell Springs Hospital, Chabert Medical Center, Villa Feliciana Medical Complex Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, Southeast Louisiana Hospital and Central Louisiana Hospital.