Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Get reacquainted with your local parish health unit!

As the new year rolled in, the Office of Public Health (OPH) regional teams prioritized reintroducing parish health units (PHUs) to the public in an effort to highlight new and established services, programming and building connections with the community. The outreach took the form of open house events that continue to be held across the state since launching in late January. Here is a look at some of the open houses that OPH has hosted so far.

REGION 1: Greater New Orleans Area

Metairie PHU team members celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and welcome attendees to the open house.
Delgado Personal Health Clinic, New Orleans
Region 1 team members welcomed partners and patients to the Delgado open house with the St. Patrick’s Day theme of “We’re Lucky to Have You!” Guests met team members, took tours of the facility and learned about programs and services. These programs included opioid prevention and outreach, Community HealthWays, STI testing and treatment, tuberculosis services, Medicaid and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.


REGION 2: Capital Region

Left to right: OPH Region 2 Nurse Manager Diane Lewis, Interim East Feliciana Parish Manager Yamesha Harris and OPH Bureau of Regional and Clinical Operations Director Colleen Arceneaux gather in front of East Feliciana Parish Health Unit during its open house.

Medicaid Assistant Regional Administrator Aaron Kean and Medicaid analyst LaShuntae Burrell help residents update Medicaid contact information and re-enroll.
Immunization Supervisor Cindy Aydell talks with community members about where to digitally access their vaccination records.

East Feliciana PHU, Clinton
Residents had the opportunity to receive COVID-19 and flu vaccinations from Beta Land and enjoyed refreshments. Region 2 STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program (SHHP) staff provided HIV testing, referral information and resources. Educational information was available on the health unit's different services and community partners in attendance, including the East Feliciana Drug and Alcohol Awareness Council and Quad Area Community Action Agency. Medicaid navigators updated members’ contact information and helped with the re-enrollment process. “We were pleased the community came out, so we accomplished our daily mission to help promote the health and wellness of all,” said Colleen Arceneaux, director of OPH’s Bureau of Regional and Clinical Operations.


REGION 3: South-Central Louisiana

Above: Registered Nurse (RN) Tina Becnel checks blood pressure at the St. James PHU open house in Region 3.

Assumption PHU, Napoleonville; St. James PHU, Vacherie; St. Mary PHU, Morgan City; and Terrebonne PHU, Houma Services provided by Region 3 at open houses in Assumption, St. James, St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes included blood pressure checks, STI tests and vaccinations. Staff distributed hundreds of health information packets on heart health, vaccination and other subjects. “Our health unit teams are doing a great job of making the open houses fun for parents and children while at the same time providing convenient health services,” said Regional Medical Director Dr. Eric Brooks.

REGION 4: Acadiana

Front row: RN Margaret Gaspard, Registered Dietitian Lauren Meyer, Parish Clerk Magdaline Savoy, Registered Nurse Candice Pommier, Community Heath Worker Supervisor Margaret Pitre as the Easter Bunny, breastfeeding peer counselor Jenna Conner, Registered Dietitian Alice Sheffield and Clerical Supervisor Dewanna Bourque. Back row: Nursing Assistant Charlotte Charlot, custodian Micah Gautreaux, Parish Clerk Angela Landry, health educator Sandy Tillar and community health worker Dorthea Wilson.
Acadia PHU, Crowley; Evangeline PHU, Ville Platte; Lafayette PHU, Lafayette; St. Landry PHU, Eunice; St. Martin PHU, St. Martinville; Vermilion PHU, Abbeville Region 4 hosted seven open houses where the community could learn about the services offered in their local PHUs. Events included free blood pressure screenings, COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, HIV testing, free COVID-19 test kits and more. The PHUs also provided information about health resources and services including Medicaid and the health insurance marketplace.


REGION 6: Central Louisiana

Community members listen to a presentation at the Grant PHU open house in Region 6.

COVID-19 Coordinator Theodora Martin (in pink) and Disease Intervention Specialists Jerra Johnson and Corey Boyd speak to community members about PHU services.

Regional Administrator Dr. Curtis Lewis, Winn Community Health Center Chief Operating Officer David Adams, Winn Parish Police Jury Secretary/Treasurer Karen Tyler, LA Eye and Laser Office Manager Kathy Johnson, Regional Medical Director Dr. David Holcombe, Winn Parish Police Juror Tammy Griffin and Winn Community Health Center CEO Deano Thornton.
Avoyelles Sleeves Up Program Manager Liz Leger, Avoyelles Parish Police Juror Jacob Coco, Assistant Regional Administrator Julie Beene-Police, Regional Administrator Dr. Curtis Lewis, RMD Dr. David Holcombe and Administrative Program Manager Yolanda Crawford.
RNs at the Avoyelles PHU open house included Region 6 Nursing Director Charlotte Amphion, Bridget Bordelon, supervisor Sonya Ryland and Tracy Dauzat.
Avoyelles PHU clerical team members Brittany Vasser, Joycelyn Payne, Latoya Smith, Amber Courville, Brianna Deglandon and Kim Sellers.
Grant PHU, Colfax; Winn PHU, Winnfield; Avoyelles PHU, Marksville Community members including superintendents, police jury members, and local library and hospital staff heard about programs provided by Grant PHU. Department heads spoke on the services offered through their respective programs. Community members also visited tables featuring information and interactive displays. Local stakeholders, community partners and healthcare workers attended the Winn PHU open house in Winnfield. PHU staff shared information on the services they provide to the community, as well as fostering and maintaining connections with other healthcare entities.

REGION 7: Northwest Louisiana

RN Erin White, Administrative Coordinator Meshell Cooper, Sanitarian Mindy Martin and RN Toshia Williams gather outside at the Fuel for the Future open house.
Claiborne PHU, Homer To celebrate National Nutrition Month in March, Claiborne Parish Health Unit in Region 7 hosted a Fuel for the Future open house, during which Homer Mayor Xanthe Seals proclaimed March as National Nutrition Month. Attendees learned about maintaining a healthy diet, consuming nutritious foods to fuel their mind and body, and purchasing and eating foods that are good for themselves and the environment. The event included recognition of school coloring contest winners, WIC-approved nutritious snacks, door prizes, Medicaid navigators and analysts, and bags of promotional items and information on COVID 19, the region, the PHU and its services, Medicaid and other public health topics.

REGION 8: Northeast Louisiana

CHW Vera Matthews, Region 8 CHW Supervisor Kiara Bradford and Community HealthWays Tri-manager hand out promotional items and information at the Lincoln PHU open house in Region 8. 

Region 8 social worker Sabrina Cole and RN Alison Campbell share information on Children’s Special Health Services.

Region 8 health disparities social worker Shirah Tolliver and COVID-19 Coordinator Jeanette White share information on COVID-19.
Lincoln PHU, Ruston; Franklin, Winnsboro Visitors had the opportunity to meet with Region 8 staff and other partners on Community HealthWays, WIC, Children’s Special Health Services, coping skills, ways to reduce stress, sharing information and recent changes on Medicaid, signing up for Medicaid and accessing personal immunization records. Region 8 educated community members on COVID-19 and handed out COVID home test kits and information bags. Pafford EMS provided COVID vaccines and boosters, as well as flu vaccines. To educate community members on the dangers of opioids, Region 8 passed out Narcan nasal sprays, fentanyl test strips, information on testing medications for fentanyl and other opioid information.


REGION 9: Northshore Area

Washington PHU team members wait for community members to join the open house.

Frontline public health workers wait to assist community members with health-related social needs.

Region 9 nursing staff come together for the South Tangipahoa Parish Health Unit open house.

Region 9 Medical Director Dr. Gina Lagarde talks with a Hammond-area father about safe sleep for babies.

Washington PHU, Franklinton; Tangipahoa PHU, Amite; South Tangipahoa PHU, Hammond

Region 9 hosted several open houses to give community members the opportunity to learn more about the public health services available to them, such as nurse in-home visitation, Community HealthWays and WIC. Attendees also learned more about reproductive health, STI and tuberculosis testing and treatment, infectious disease epidemiology, opioid prevention and emergency preparedness.

Region 9 team members offered blood pressure screenings, COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, HIV testing, COVID-19 test kits, free colon cancer screening kits, health and wellness educational flyers, and infant safe sleep demonstrations. Medicaid specialists were available to assist Medicaid members with updating their contact information to ensure they maintain health insurance coverage. 

“The open house was a successful event, and we were proud to showcase what we do on a daily basis in the health unit to keep Northshore residents healthy,” said Region 9 Medical Director Dr. Gina Lagarde.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Lottery Tickets and Mobile Sports Betting Are Not Meant for Children

The Louisiana Department of Health Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) would like to remind parents that lottery tickets and other gambling-related activities like mobile sports betting are not meant for children. Many parents see these gifts and activities as fun and convenient, and while they might be a quick and easy gift, gambling is not intended for children and is age-restricted for a reason. These gifts and activities could put children at future risk for developing gambling issues.

Two of the biggest indicators of a future potential gambling problem are winning a large sum of money early and early exposure to gambling as a youth. Many problem gamblers report that early exposure to gambling contributed to their gambling issues later in life. Since the legalization of mobile sports betting in Louisiana, parents should be especially aware that any form of gambling is age restricted for a reason.

According to the 2020 Louisiana Caring Communities Youth Survey, 33% of youths in Louisiana (grades 6, 8, 10 and 12) have reported gambling in the past year. In Louisiana, 13.7% of 6th graders, 15.3% of 8th graders, 12.1% of 10th graders and 9.3% of 12th graders have reported playing the lottery or scratch-off tickets in 2020, the last time the survey was issued. In addition, 13.2% of 6th graders, 14.6% of 8th graders, 12% of 10th graders and 9.9% of 12th graders have reported betting on sporting events in 2020, two years before mobile sports betting became popular in Louisiana. Parents need to be mindful about gambling because even though it has become a social norm, we still need to protect young people from being exposed through direct involvement.

According to a recent study by the Imperial College London, published in 2017, gambling addiction triggers the same brain areas as drug and alcohol cravings, and activates the same brain pathways as drug and alcohol cravings.[1]

“Parents should to talk to their children about the potential risks that gambling can cause. Gambling is marketed as being fun and easy and has become extremely popular,” said OBH Deputy Assistant Secretary Quinetta Womack. “We need to let everyone know that there can be potential harms, as well.  The lines are getting blurred between a fun game and an age restricted form of entertainment.”

If you have any questions or want more information about problem gambling, please contact the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The helpline is a confidential referral line that assists individuals in the state of Louisiana who are affected by gambling problems. Louisiana provides free outpatient and residential problem gambling treatment to Louisiana residents and has facilities throughout Louisiana.

The Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to potential gamblers and/or family. Help is also available online at  and Problem gambling is a hidden addiction that often goes undetected. Learn the signs before it is too late.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

LDH sets sickle cell disease support, care and awareness goals in coming year


September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects the lives of at least 3,300 Louisianans — our families, neighbors and friends. Despite the prevalence of SCD, many people remain unaware of the complexities and risks associated with this inherited blood disorder.

That is why the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) plans to spotlight SCD not only this month, but throughout the coming year as part of our FY23 Business Plan. 

As you may know, SCD affects the shape of the red blood cells, which carry oxygen to every part of the body. These cells are typically round and flexible, allowing them to move through the body with relative ease. However, the sickle-shaped cells that give SCD its name can block blood flow and cause serious damage. Potential complications include damage to the lungs, brain and other vital organs, stroke and severe pain, among other health issues.


Severe pain episodes, also known as sickle cell crisis, often strike without warning, disrupting lives. In 2020 alone, over 1,400 Louisianans with SCD were hospitalized. On average, those hospitalized had 4 to 5 hospitalizations throughout the year, spending about 30 days total in the hospital. 


In the U.S., SCD most commonly affects people of African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. Data shows 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with the sickle cell trait (meaning they carry the gene that causes SCD, but do not have SCD) and SCD occurs in 1 in 365 Black or African-American births.


Due to disparities, this condition has lacked the necessary attention, funding and resources. People living with SCD continue to experience barriers with access to and retention of specialized care.


The Department of Health wants to change that in Louisiana, providing families, friends, neighbors and colleagues effective care and support so they can live to the fullest, and so that Louisiana as a whole can function at its best.


To make substantive improvements, LDH needs a firm foundation of knowledge. The Department aims to begin developing a patient registry, needed to make the kind of data-driven decisions that will improve quality of life.


LDH also plans to develop and implement a statewide SCD public information campaign to further support those living with SCD. While there is information available on SCD, this campaign will provide a deeper understanding of SCD to teachers, medical staff and others who play key roles in the lives of those with SCD.


The Department also hopes this campaign will empower those living with SCD to advocate for their needs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Vaccines represent one of the greatest advances in protecting people from diseases

By: Joseph Bocchini, MD

Throughout my career as a pediatrician, I have witnessed the number of vaccine preventable diseases disappear after the introduction of a vaccine. These discoveries have proven to be some of the most important public health advancements in both the 20th and 21st centuries, and have helped protect against many severe infections that cause significant illnesses and fatalities in both children and adults.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people fell behind on receiving their routine immunizations and now there is an increased need for both children and adults to catch up and, going forward, to vaccinate on schedule to protect our families as early as possible and prevent outbreaks.

This is important because many of the organisms responsible for vaccine preventable diseases continue to be present in our communities and being unvaccinated leaves a person susceptible to infection.

Some diseases are making a comeback

Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of measles related outbreaks among children and adults who were unvaccinated. Even more recently, there has been a reported polio case in an unvaccinated adult.

Immunizations throughout adolescence are important. Of vaccines recommended for 11–12-year-olds, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has the lowest percentage of doses administered. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers, most cancers of the genital area, and is responsible for 70% of throat cancers. Researchers expect the HPV vaccine to prevent up to 90% of the 40,000 new cancers associated with the Human Papillomavirus, which occur in the US each year.

It is important that everyone – especially parents – understand the importance of vaccines. I urge individuals of all ages to stay aware of their immunizations and continue to stay on schedule for their vaccinations.


About Dr. Joseph Bocchini – Pediatrician and Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist who has practiced medicine for more than 45 years. He currently serves as the Director of Children’s Health Services for the Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Farewell and thank you to LDH's first Executive Internship Cohort

Pictured, from left to right are, Undersecretary Ruth Johnson, interns Sarah Lehman, Matthew Foster, Jekila Dockery, Anna Crifasi, Isabel Zebrick and Joseph Patterson, and Tonya Joiner with the Office of the Secretary.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) recently said farewell and thank you to its first Executive Internship Cohort.

“What we do here is so important as it touches everyone from our children to our grandchildren to our neighbors. We hope we imparted that to you and that your experiences will continue to increase your interest in public health,” said Tonya Joiner with the Office of the Secretary.

Beginning June 6, the 11 participants each joined a different department or program office where they learned what it means to be a public servant. Throughout their time at LDH, the interns learned about the inner workings of LDH, visited the Capitol and met with different legislators.

The program ended August 12.

“You all set the bar. You were our first cohort. Thank you for the time you spent with us. We hope you will come back and work with us in the future," said  
Undersecretary Ruth Johnson.

“I don’t have the words to explain how awesome the internship was. I learned a lot and I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said intern Anna Crifasi.

We wish our 2022 Executive Internship Cohort all the best!