Bridge Center board chairman frustrated after WBRZ exposed layoffs at taxpayer-funded facility
BATON ROUGE - During a special meeting with members of the Bridge Center for Hope Board, the board chairman apologized to members for a lack of communication about the money woes that were exposed by the WBRZ Investigative Unit last week.
During that meeting, Chairman Patrick Seiter also cautioned other members not to talk to the media.
"What got us here again, and I apologize this played out the way that it did, I do want to remind everyone in 2020 we as a board adopted a media relations policy," Seiter said. "The purpose isn't to stifle or gag anybody, but it's important the board speaks with a single voice."
Since Friday, WBRZ has been asking for answers about the layoffs, which came as a surprise to many in the community since the Bridge Center has a dedicated funding source. Originally we learned 15 people were losing their jobs. Tuesday, the picture became much clearer. There are 21 people who are losing their jobs and 16 beds are being shut down. The detoxification unit will close next week and the respite unit has already closed.
The Bridge Center was approved by taxpayers as an answer to Baton Rouge's mental health crisis.
Those in charge said they have been having conversations with the state about how they can be reimbursed for patients who have Medicaid ever since the facility opened.
RI International operates the Bridge Center. The company said it has experienced $5 million dollars in losses to date running the Bridge Center. It's predicted that there will be another $3 million in losses by the end of the fiscal year.
"When I talked with the secretary yesterday, I tried to tell her this isn't an RI problem or Bridge Center problem, this is a state problem," Bridge Center board member Kathy Kliebert said. "We want the crisis management services to work for the state. If they can't work in Baton Rouge with $6 million of funding, they can't work anywhere."
"The center and program was established with the expectation that a large population the center we serve would be covered by Medicaid," Seiter said. "Also, other third party insurance. The millage was intended to cover the uninsured citizens of East Baton Rouge parish."
A meeting is scheduled next week with the Secretary of the Department of Health in hopes of ironing out the money problems.
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