The mental health diversion center approved by voters Dec. 8 is tentatively slated to be located in vacant space at the Baton Rouge General Mid City campus. But officials with the nonprofit organization that will run the Bridge Center haven’t ruled out the former Woman’s Hospital on Airline Highway—now home to a city-parish law enforcement complex—as a possible location.
Both locations offer unique advantages. The Mid City site, which has had some 25,000 square feet of unused space on Florida Boulevard since shutting down its emergency room in 2015, is aptly suited for a mental health diversion center and would require very little renovation. Additionally, because the hospital still provides inpatient care, nutritional, psychiatric and other support services that would be utilized by the Bridge Center are already operational on campus.
The former Woman’s Hospital complex, on the other hand, is home to multiple city-parish law enforcement agencies, including the Baton Rouge Police Department and a satellite office of the East Baton Rouge District Attorney. Because it is just over 50 years old, it also could potentially qualify for state and federal Historic Building Tax Credits.
“Both are good locations and good options,” Kliebert says. “We haven’t committed to anything yet but we will utilize an existing location and will be making a decision shortly.”
Baton Rouge General Chief Executive Officer Edgardo Tenreiro was surprised to learn that his Mid City facility isn’t the only option on the table. Reached by phone this morning, he says he heard late Wednesday for the first time that the Bridge Center is considering Woman’s Hospital.
“We are very deep in conversations with them and would love to make this a reality here,” Tenreiro says. “I think Mid City is a great option because it’s an old ER, set up for that type of a patient, and we renovated it three years before we closed it so it would cost just pennies to reopen.”
Because of those advantages, Bridge Center officials are leaning towards the Mid City facility, Kliebert says. But Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s office is setting up a meeting with officials from the organization in the coming days to discuss location options and also the possibility of loaning the Bridge Center some or all of the $1 million it needs to get up and running, as revenues from the newly passed tax will not be available until 2020.
“Whatever we can do to help them get up and running quickly we will support,” Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says.