Plans for mental health facility in St. Tammany Parish still underway

MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) - After battling addiction for years, 31-year-old Karl of Slidell is on the right path. He graduated from UNO with a business degree and has a good job. He has gained stability. But he says he faced many obstacles.

“I would find these moments where I was like, ‘I had enough, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.' And if I could have found help and could have gone to a place and gotten that help immediately, I probably could have stopped much sooner," said Karl.

That's why he supports Safe Haven, a project put together by St Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, creating a healing environment for those struggling with drugs, behavioral health and mental illness.

"It’s OK to talk about it. We realized it’s not only a local problem. It’s a state problem. It’s a national problem - growing to a point that you can’t ignore it,” said  Brister.

Brister's team says many with mental illness don't know where to go, or they're thrown into jail or sent to an emergency room. When Safe Haven is operational, officers will take them there, instead giving them proper care and support. They are also welcome to come in on their own, at any time. No questions asked. All the necessary services are provided under one roof.

"What we learned is that a lot of nonprofits and providers were already providing a lot of these services in our parish, we were just fragmented. We want them centrally located on our campus, so that it serves a single point of entry for the individual, and it's easy for them to get the care that they need," said St. Tammany Parish Legal Department Director Kelly Rabalais.

Karl admits the road to recovery is a difficult one, but he believes Safe Haven's services will help so many get back on track.

Parish officials hope to have the Safe Haven campus operational within the next three years, renovating the old Southeast hospital in Mandeville off of U.S. 190.

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