More programs to be eliminated in mental health care for Louisiana's youngest patients

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 8:06pm

The Early Childhood Supports and Services program works to help with the mental health needs of over 500 children under the age of six in the capital area, but come February will soon be no more thanks to state budget cuts.

Another blow to health funding, a 10 year old program that helps young children with mental and behavioral problems has been cut. An unfortunate cut, but necessary in the eyes of the Department of Health and Hospitals.

" ECSS serves only six parishes in the state today. That’s clearly not what our ultimate goal is. Our goal is to provide services that are needed to children and families across the state of Louisiana," Bruce Greenstein, DHH Secretary, explained.

Janet Ketchem with the McaMains Center for Early Childhood Development sees many of the same patients as ECSS. She says without it, the 540 low income families serviced by the program, could fall through the cracks. That's why she wrote to the governor asking him to reconsider.

"We had a place that some low income families could go for children under six, that specialized where the therapists were so trained. I just thought, this is time for me to step up," said Ketchem.

But DHH officials have said those young patients will still get the services they need.

"Any time you make a change, there's always questions. And so we're working right now to answer the questions, to be as available as possible, and to work with our partners in the behavioral health partnership," Greenstein explained.

Still Ketchem believes that partnership isn't the best way to help those young patients and worries they won't get all the specialized help they need for their variety of mental issues.

"It’s a terrible, terrible shame. It’s a very unfortunate thing and the timing is, not that it would ever be good, but it's especially bad right now," Ketchem said.

The program will be eliminated February first and more than 70 positions eliminated as well.

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