Mayor’s agreement with Bridge Center goes to Metro Council

Baton Rouge City Hall (File photo)

The Metro Council will get an early look at the cooperative endeavor agreement the mayor’s office is executing with The Bridge Center for Hope, the long-planned mental health diversion facility East Baton Rouge Parish taxpayers agreed to finance after the Dec. 8 election.

While the item is being introduced at tonight’s council meeting, it will be up for public hearing on March 13.

The 1.5-mill property tax will collect an estimated $60 million for the center over the course of a decade. The facility plans to staff some 45 full-time employees and will be able to serve as many as 5,000 people each year.

“It’s very similar to the CEA the city-parish had with the Council on Aging,” says Kathy Kliebert, Bridge Center Board chair. “We used that as our framework.”

In its current iteration, the agreement—accessible through the Metro Council agenda—says in the first calendar year, the city-parish will make an “annual appropriation” to the Bridge Center reflecting anticipated revenues from the approved property tax, which won’t be collected until 2020. The public dollars would be used specifically to financially support the operation of the Bridge Center’s crisis stabilization center.

In subsequent calendar years up to 2029, the center will submit an annual budget to the Department of Finance by July 31. All annual appropriations will be payable in monthly installments and subject to Metro Council approval.

If the city-parish decides to loan funds to the center for operations conducted in 2019, the Bridge Center would have to provide the Department of Finance with a budget for such services no later than 45 days before funding the loan.

The Bridge Center would also provide the mayor and Metro Council with quarterly financial reports, assuming responsibility for any additional costs that exceed the public funds available.

The Bridge Center will contract with third-party licensed service providers to provide various services, including a mobile assessment team, crisis assessment center, sobering beds, detox program and behavioral health respite program. It’s the center’s responsibility to contract with, manage, and oversee the performance of those providers.

Introduction of the CEA comes amid a push for greater Bridge Center transparency. Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis two weeks ago told Daily Report she was frustrated with the lack of information made available to her about the center’s progress, which had been stalled after the center focused on diversifying its board.

Kliebert says she today posted a report filled with recommendations from Emergent Method, which the board contracted from June 2017 to January 2018. Read the full report here.

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