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Mental health tax passes Metro Council, voters to decide fate

1 week 1 day 19 hours ago Thursday, August 09 2018 Aug 9, 2018 August 09, 2018 5:53 PM August 09, 2018 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Four months from now, voters in East Baton Rouge Parish will head to the polls to decide the fate of the mental health tax. For the average homeowner in Baton Rouge, the mental health tax would add about $20 a year to their tax bill.

Parish leaders have been pushing for this tax for years, but voter's rejected a similar proposal two years ago. Those in favor of the tax site the Restoration Center in San Antonio, Texas as a their model say it would save taxpayers in the long run.

"The San Antonio Center model did provides a sobering center, that crisis respite, mobile assessment," said Kathy Kleibert, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Chair of the Bridge Center. 

The Bridge Center is a non-profit organization that would provide mental health and substance abuse services if voters approve the property tax in December. 

"We're not paying for them right now, and we're not getting those services. $18 a year is basically what it'll cost a family to really save a life," said Kleibert.

Millions are spent yearly on housing thousands of people who are wrongly treated. East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux says there's no place for law enforcement to place mental patients.

"They're arrested on some petty crime, but law enforcement doesn't have any alternative," Gautreaux said. "They either take them to jail, or just leave them out on the street, and we can't do that."

But everyone isn't on board with adding another tax onto voters. EBR Parish President Scott Wilson was one of the three council people to vote against the mental health tax. 

"This is like 5 or 6 million dollars a year, and I think going to another agency for example, like the library board, who's getting $45 million a year, I think that's some monies that we could grab from there and spend on the mental health without going to the voters," Wilson said.

At one point, there were two separate mental health facilities, and they began closing during Governor Jindal's administration. The parish saw a rise in protective custody orders.

Voters will vote on the mental health tax this December.

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