The Committee to Save Southeast Louisiana Hospital held another meeting last week at the Mandeville Community Center, where State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said he supports Thibodaux state Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard's call for a special legislative session on Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent cuts to health care.
One of the meeting attendees repeatedly questioned Donahue, asking whether he had ever voted for the closure or privatization of state-run mental health facilities. Donahue said he hadn't.
During the 2010 legislative session, Donahue sponsored SB 295, which "authorizes the Department of Health and Hospitals to contract for the operation of state inpatient mental health facilities and certain services provided at such facilities."
That bill came as a result of recommendation No. 96 from the Commission on Streamlining Government, which Donahue chairs. The recommendation reads, "The Department of Health and Hospitals establish a competitive procurement process for operation of inpatient mental health institutions and/or certain services provided at the institutions, and include in the solicitations a requirement for constructing new facilities without using any state debt."
Donahue's claim that he never voted for privatizing mental health facilities is true. SB 295 never came to a vote, as noted in a November 2011 status report on the commission's recommendations. The report also acknowledges that the executive budget for 2010-2011 "contained provisions associated with this recommendation." Donahue did vote for the budget bill that year, along with almost all his colleagues. However, there were no provisions in that budget bill that privatized state mental hospitals. Instead, Jindal has made cuts to inpatient beds at public hospitals and redirected money to community outpatient services. — Charles Maldonado