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Lawmakers hoping to prevent psychiatric hospital from opening next to BR elementary school

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BATON ROUGE - It was standing room only inside the Forest Heights Academy of Excellence on Saturday, as hundreds of people voiced their concerns about the possibility of a mental health facility for "dangerous" mentally ill patients opening up in their neighborhood.

"We should do everything we can to keep this from happening again," one woman said.

One by one, they all agreed the lot next to the elementary school is no place for the criminally insane.

"The teachers also have a lot to deal with. Why would they have to come every day and worry about our kids, protecting our kids, protecting our kids outside," a mother said.

"How can anyone say, think or promise that these people will be securely housed in the facility around hundreds of kids in the midst of a neighborhood within walking distance, while established facilities are having trouble being secure right now?" another man said.

On Thursday, Harmony Behavioral Health announced they are no longer planning to open the 118-bed facility.

"The one thing I love about laws: they can be changed," Councilman Darryl Hurst said.

Now, Hurst says he is working to change ordinances, preventing a mental hospital for criminals to be built near a school.

"I'm going to planning and zoning. We've added this language to the resolution, where a forensic psychiatric hospital has to be 2,000 yards from a school, church," he said.

The ordinance will also keep the hospital half a mile away from high density residential areas.

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