Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Thanks for all you do, Region 1 staff!

Ahead of the Christmas holiday Dr. Shantel Hebert-Magee, medical director for the Greater New Orleans region, held an awards ceremony to recognize her staff for all of their accomplishments in 2021. Dr. Hebert-Magee's staff has taken the many demands of the COVID-19 crisis in stride, especially around immunizations. Here's a look at some of her staff awards and what they were recognized for. 


Rha'Keisha Wyre, Assistant Regional Administrator: As Dr. Hebert-Magee's No. 2, Rha'Keisha embodies all of the values you find in a public servant, as well as a leader. Rha'Keisha's main goal is to highlight the importance of community engagement in the area that includes Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Orleans Parish — home to some of the most populous and diverse communities in the state. Rha'Keisha uses her people-centric skills to to keep up morale, bring on new talent, expand Region 1's operations and coordinate with all of the region's public partnerships. She did all this with empathy during the most challenging of circumstances.

Janila Bailey, Delgado Administrative Coordinator: As a recipient of one of Dr. Hebert-Magee's clerical awards, Janila was recognized for stepping up in the Delgado public health unit (PHU) to help cover vacancies and staff changes. Her approach to customer service is excellent and Dr. Hebert-Magee said Janila is someone that can always being counted on during times of uncertainty and when difficult tasks come up.

Van Coulon, Clerical Supervisor: Van got a promotion in 2020, moving up from Public Health Unit Clerk. In addition to Van's positive attitude and professionalism, Dr. Hebert-Magee recognized Van's willingness to "go the extra mile." He literally went the extra mile this summer: When evacuating after Hurricane Ida due to lack of power and water, Van was activated while en route to Texas and turned around without hesitation to assist with shelter operations and credentialing emergency medical staff.

Amanda Melancon and Jeanne Marie Baudouin: Amanda and Jeanne received Dr. Hebert-Magee's immunization award for "troubleshooting vaccine shortages, minimizing waste, and ensuring access to our most vulnerable populations." Their efforts helped Region 1 administer more than a 500,000 vaccinations.

Blanche Lott, Regional Office Manager: Dr. Hebert wrote of Blanche: "Though shy and humble, through her organizational skills, she has delivered greater strategic value to the region and is at the core of our daily operations, maintaining a can-do outlook throughout the pandemic."

Mary Vu, Health Educator, WIC: Using her Vietnamese language skills, Mary is crucial to outreach in Region 1's sizable Vietnamese community, assisting in translations both verbal and written to get WIC information out to this population. Mary took the lead in setting up WIC services for Hurricane Laura refugees, allowing Region 1 to begin servicing WIC families within hours.

Kyler Forte, Health Educator, WIC: Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote that Kyler "has been instrumental in providing WIC services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Ida." In addition to providing curbside services at the PHU, Kyler assisted without hesitation in servicing WIC participants during Hurricane Ida state office closure while her own home was damaged and without electricity. 

Dana Washington, Regional Nutritionist: Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote that Dana worked creatively during the COVID-19 crisis to set up curbside and drive-through pick-ups for the WIC population, and traveled to the region daily after Hurricane Ida from Mississippi to assist with incident command operations for shelter operations.

Veronica Attaway, Registered Nurse, Region 1 PHUs: An 18-year LDH veteran, Veronica approaches her job as a calling, Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote. "Veronica goes wherever she is needed in the community, even at short notice, after hours, or in an unfamiliar part of town."

Megan Hill, Registered Nurse, Region 1 PHUs: Megan is known for her compassion and willingness to help, working "tirelessly through our emergency response" despite being relatively new to LDH, Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote.

Vanessa Hargrove, Disease Intervention Specialist Supervisor: Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote: "Vanessa served as a resource for the emergency response staff in the medical operations credentialing section as well with the Command Staff. She began her response efforts working as a resource member on the medical operations section but she quickly became the Medical Resource Section Lead after a few adjustments in our Incident Command Structure."

Jenny Bagert, Strategic Partner, Together Louisiana: Dr. Hebert-Magee wrote: "Jenny has been instrumental to our community outreach and vaccine uptake in our most vulnerable neighborhoods. Using creativity and ingenuity she has improved medical literacy, healthcare engagement and LDH visibility."

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Pinecrest Supports and Services Center celebrates 100 years of service to Louisiana

By SHANNON THORN | CEO, Pinecrest Supports and Services Center

Pinecrest State School opened in 1921 as a facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities. One hundred years later, it remains in operation as Pinecrest Supports and Services Center, specializing in the treatment of people with comorbid intellectual and developmental disabilities, and complex medical, behavioral and psychiatric support needs.

In 1884, 129 patients were admitted to East Louisiana Hospital from the New Orleans Asylum. These individuals would now be what we refer to as individuals with an intellectual disability. In 1914, the Superintendent of East Louisiana Hospital recommended the establishment of a specialized facility for these patients, as the mental health hospital was not the best place to meet their unique needs. Subsequently, legal authorization from Legislative Act. No. 141 of 1918 created Pinecrest.

In 1921, 1,000 acres of land was purchased from the Beauregard Development Company utilizing portions of Camp Beauregard that were employed during World War I. On December 21, 1921, Pinecrest officially opened with a total of 37 patients. The total annual budget for 1921 was $50,000. During these times, the facility was completely self-sufficient with a working vegetable farm, dairy farm operation, and livestock such as chickens, hogs and cattle. This was during a time when the only way the facility could operate was through self-sufficiency due to budget constraints. Years later, additional funding was given to the agency so they could begin to purchase instead of produce.

Now known as Pinecrest Supports and Services Center, the facility consists of 947 total acres with 163 acres leased to the Ward 9 recreational facility, giving Pinecrest 784 acres to care for and operate on. There are 335 total buildings on campus with 158 heated and cooled buildings. There is an on-grounds bakery, greenhouse, canteen, medical observation unit, fully functional dental clinic, park, baseball field, an equine therapy program, a barn with various animals for pet therapy, swimming pool, gymnasium, and school operated by the Department of Education which is open year round focusing on the specific curricula needs for the individuals supported. The Pinecrest school also has a GED program.

This shadowbox displays the original knobs from the A Building in the 1920s, as well as a fire house nozzle that was an original piece of equipment from the 1920s Pinecrest Fire Department.

On campus, 40 buildings are currently used as residential homes. There are 12 day service buildings used for skill acquisition training activities, active treatment and training, and vocational learning opportunities. Pinecrest has various work training options including the on-campus canteen, bakery, on-grounds delivery services, food service skills through the kitchen, landscaping and lawn care through the greenhouse, contracts with community-based agencies, and many more job opportunities.

In December 1921, Pinecrest had 37 residents and during the 1970s the facility had more than 2,100 residents. In 2021, Pinecrest supported 430 residents with intellectual disabilities who have significant medical, behavioral and psychiatric challenges. It also has well over 100 individuals with autism who receive specialized programs and training for their unique needs. The facility also has a specialized geriatric program for individuals with an intellectual disability and their unique issues associated with aging and dementia. Additionally, it offers a wide array of clinical services such as psychology, occupation therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, medical services, nursing, recreation services, psychiatry and neurology, among other specialized clinical services needed by the individuals supported by Pinecrest.

From 37 patients with limited services and a budget of $50,000, to a complex treatment-based organization, Pinecrest has for 100 years continuously supported individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that many others cannot serve or refuse to serve  over the years. Now, its current focus is on specialized programming and individualized treatment and skills acquisition training focused on independence, autonomy, self-advocacy and skills development to increase each resident’s ability to live independently.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

OBH warns parents not to purchase lottery tickets and scratch-offs for children

The Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health would like to remind parents that lottery tickets and scratch-offs are not suitable gifts for children. Often, we are looking for simple gifts and stocking stuffers to serve as quick and easy gifts around the holidays. Lottery tickets and scratch-offs are not a good idea because of the potential harm these gifts might cause for some children.

Many problem gamblers report early exposure to gambling, as youths. Often, parents and children participate in gambling behaviors that appear to be harmless — however, research shows that this early exposure can trigger the start of a very serious gambling addiction.

A 2017 study by the Imperial College London says gambling addiction triggers the same brain areas as drug and alcohol cravings. “Giving a lottery ticket or scratch-off to a child may seem like a cheap, fun and harmless gift, but such gifts can increase risk factors for an addiction problem further down the road. That’s why we discourage the giving of such presents to children,” said Kenneth Saucier, Program Manager, Office of Behavioral Health. “These games are meant for adults and are age restricted for a reason.

“Disordered gambling among youths is frequently linked with … greater gambling expenditures, academic difficulties, poor or disrupted family relationships, both concurrent and later alcohol and substance abuse problems,” Renee St-Pierre and Jeffrey Derevensky report in Youth Gambling Behavior: Novel Approaches to Prevention and Intervention.

According to the 2020 Louisiana Caring Communities Youth Survey, 33% of youths (grades 6, 8, 10 and 12) in Louisiana have reported gambling in the past year, down from 40% in 2018. In Louisiana, 13.7% of 6th graders, 15.3% of 8th graders, 12.1% of 10th graders and 9.3% of 12 graders have reported playing the lottery or scratch-off tickets in the past year, as well as other forms of gambling. 

Louisiana provides problem gambling resources at no cost to residents. If you or someone you love would like more information on problem gambling or to talk to someone about a gambling problem, please call the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The helpline provides confidential support and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to potential gamblers and/or family. Help is also available online at ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1545 and helpforgambling.org.

Problem gambling is a hidden addiction that goes undetected. Know the signs and the things to look for, before it is too late.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Join us in celebrating Louisiana's amazing addiction professionals

September 20, 2021 is National Addiction Professionals Day, and the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is joining the movement and celebrating the vital players of the health system and continuum of care: addiction professionals.

Now, more than ever, it is vital to take a moment to recognize the importance of the addiction profession and the efforts addiction professionals make to support their community and the country. National Addiction Professionals Day was established by NAADAC, the Association of Addiction Professionals, in 1992 to celebrate and commemorate all of the hard work that addiction professionals do on a daily basis.


This annual day of recognition is held in September as a part of National Recovery Month. National Recovery Month aims to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate people in recovery. For more information on Recovery Month, please visit www.rm.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org. 

Join us and NAADAC, the largest membership organization for addiction-focused healthcare professionals representing the professional interests of more than 100,000 addiction counselors, educators and other addiction-focused healthcare professionals in the United States, Canada and abroad, in celebrating Addiction Professionals Day and recognizing how amazing addiction professionals are! For more information, please visit www.naadac.org/national-addiction-professionals-day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

LDH’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program teams up with its partners to create tools to improve the health of Louisiana’s communities


The Louisiana Department of Health’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, or Tracking, is committed to providing all Louisianans with better health data. For the past 10 years, the Tracking team has collaborated with LDH’s Bureau of Health Informatics and other partners to develop, launch and enhance the Department’s Health Data Portal (Data Explorer). The Data Explorer is a web-based tool that makes environmental, health outcomes, population and exposure data and information accessible to municipalities, college students and researchers, community-based organizations, policy makers and other end users. Data and information from the online data and mapping tool can be used to support funding, policies, programs and other public health actions to improve the communities’ health.

Funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made the Tracking Program possible. Since the program’s inception in 2009, the staff have worked with their federal, state and local partners to collect and evaluate data on important environmental health issues affecting Louisiana’s communities. Within the past six years, over 25 organizations have requested data and information from LDH Tracking’s team to inform local and state decision-makers and community members, to identify and address local public health issues, and to support funding to understand the connections between the environment and health.

Recently, LDH Tracking and its partners upgraded the Department’s Data Explorer, which included many datasets and updates, a major accomplishment following the agency response to COVID-19 2020-21. Now the tool includes childhood blood lead data, sub-parish cancer data and more current occupational health data. Because climate change is a concern in Louisiana, the team has also added new temperature, drought and rainfall data to the Data Explorer. Stay tuned — more updates and site enhancements are on the way!

This summer, LDH’s Tracking team will be collaborating with the CDC and its partners to celebrate Tracking Awareness Week. The theme of this year’s event, which will be observed from July 12-16, is “Powered by Tracking.” Because Tracking is more than a data warehouse, the staff will be highlighting the program’s successes that go beyond data hosted on the Data Explorer on the Department’s Facebook and Twitter channels.

The program would like to wish everyone a Happy Tracking Awareness Week. LDH Tracking has been successful because of its hard-working and dedicated staff and loyal partners. The Tracking team wants to engage additional partners in the program. Email LDH Tracking at tracking@la.gov to learn more the program and to discuss collaborating with the team.


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