Louisiana does not have half the necessary medical personnel or facilities to meet the mental health care needs of its children.

This fact was revealed in a study commissioned by the Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services as the organization prepared to build a children’s home in Loranger.

Patrick Blanchard, director of development and public relations, explained the findings during a supper last week at St. Timothy United Methodist Church in Mandeville.

The new home going up along LA 445 between Robert and Loranger is the third for Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services and replaces a smaller, temporary home in leased facilities in Mandeville.

The original Methodist Children’s Home was built in Ruston more than 115 years ago and a home in Sulphur was completed in 2010.

Blanchard said he realized that raising money for the new children’s home was not as hard as he thought it would be, but the effort was missing one key ingredient, and a socioeconomic impact study.

So he commissioned Monica Stevens, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane University, to analyze the state of children’s mental health care in Louisiana.

What the team Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services learned was as shocking as the physical and mental condition of the children they are treating at the three homes, Blanchard said.

“When I started working for the children’s home, I learned a lot of shocking things you can’t unlearn,” he said. “The research study showed us that half of the state does not have the necessary medical personnel or facilities to meet the mental health care needs of our children. That told us that the need for the now home and the other services we provide was far greater than we realized.”

Marlin Giacona, program director of the Methodist Children’s Home of Southeast Louisiana and Greater New Orleans, explained that children that come to the home are in dire need of “intensive therapeutic intervention.”

“Imagine a 7-year-old that has never had a birthday party or that is so traumatized by what has happened to them, they can’t function at school or go to camp. Imagine a 7-year-old that’s never had a birthday party. These are the kids that are in the Methodist children’s home,” she said.

“The difference between these kids and other kids is that their bo-bos never heal,” she said.

Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services also oversees foster care programs for the state and the children often “go from one service to another, maybe a psychiatric hospital at one stop and another program at the next, but without the programs we offer, their bo-bos never heal,” Giacona said.

Future plans for the campus will include a foster care training facility, a life skills development program for older youth, and an equine therapy program.

The soon-to-open children’s home has residential rooms, classrooms, counseling, and rec areas. It will be large enough to house 32 boys and girls.

Blanchard stressed the importance of the new home’s location and the impact the Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services team has on these kids.

“Our new location puts us in the center of half of the state’s population and we’re going to take everything we’ve learned over the one hundred plus years and put it to work in this 30,000 square foot state of the art facility we’re building,” he said.

This past Wednesday night, the crowd that gathered also received an update on the soon-to-be-completed Methodist Children’s Home in Loranger.

The home will serve abused and neglected children from throughout the state and the update included an overview of a recently released study that accentuated the need for the new home.

Blanchard and Giacona were welcomed Wednesday by Reverend James Mitchell, the pastor at St. Timothy, at the Wednesday night dinner.

Children from the home have often joined church members for the dinner, and Rev. Michell noted what a joy it was “to have these kids as part of our family.”

“How many of you in this room have ever been on a mission trip,” asked Blanchard, director of development and public relations. “Everyone of you in this room is on a mission trip for the children of Louisiana. And we thank you.”

Rev. Mitchell thanked Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services for its work with needy children throughout the years and blessed the new home.

“The children that come through these homes are able to live full lives because of the Methodist Children’s Homes and that would not be possible without them,” he said.

More information on the new home can be obtained of MCHSELA.com

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