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 and

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 

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

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 to learn more the program and to discuss collaborating with the team.

To subscribe to updates to the LDH Blog, click here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Just breathe: It's Mental Health Month

By ASHA MURPHY, MA, LPC-S, NCC | Office of Behavioral Health Staffer

It's May, and May is Mental Health Month! As a mental health professional, I often experience Mental Health Month as both validating and daunting. Thoughts pop up like, "Am I taking care of my own mental health enough?" "Am I more stressed than my clients seem to be?" "Am I self-caring enough?" 

Then, I pause, just breathe and ask myself if there is some audience I’m trying to win over. The answer is almost always, "Well, no." After this fundamental realization,  I remind myself that sometimes hairstylists have bad hair days, professional athletes get injured, some of the best authors get writer's block and farmers lose the occasional crop. Having expertise and/or receiving a paycheck for a job does not imply we are superhuman. Rather, it's simple: we cannot evade failure and that's OK.  

Brene' Brown says in her "The Gifts of Imperfection": "Healthy striving is self-focused: 'How can I improve?' Perfectionism is other-focused: 'What will they think?'" I believe we cannot fully support our clients, patients, spouses, children and friends without thoughtful insight into our own thoughts, feelings and lives. Here's to living this month with thoughts and actions related to self-fulfillment, giving ourselves grace and filling ourselves up.

Here are some helpful journal or thought prompts to help you care for your mental wellbeing (from Port St. Lucie hospital's page):

  • Talk about your day.
  • Identify things you're grateful for.
  • Write a list of your coping mechanisms.
  • Describe a goal.
  • Write about how different you were five years ago.
  • Write a letter to your body.
  • List and describe your emotions.
  • Write about how you'd describe yourself to a stranger.
  • Describe the best compliment you've ever received.
  • Write a message for yourself on bad days.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Louisiana Department of Health celebrates Black History Month


Each year during Black History Month, the Louisiana Department of Health reflects on the contributions of Black pioneers in medicine and the impact they have left on the industry and the country as a whole. Their work has been instrumental to advancing the well-being and improving the lives of many people.

Here are just a handful of the Black healthcare heroes who have left an indelible mark on the health of Louisianians.

Vivien Thomas

The life of Vivien Thomas is an inspiring story of an African-American pioneer who overcame the barriers imposed by a segregated society. With no formal medical training, he developed techniques and tools that would lead to today's modern heart surgery. In operating rooms all over the world, great surgeons who received their training from Vivien Thomas are performing life-saving surgical procedures.

Read more here (Source: Morehouse School of Medicine).

Dr. Sandra L. Robinson

Dr. Sandra L. Robinson served as the secretary and state public health officer of the Louisiana Department of Health, then known as the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources, from 1984 to 1988. Appointed by Governor Edwin W. Edwards, she was one of the first two Black women to serve as a Cabinet secretary in Louisiana.

Glennis Gray

Glennis Gray currently serves as the Department’s emergency operations incidence commander, operations program manager and strategic national stockpile coordinator for the state. In these roles, she leads the state in all chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive events, and coordinates and facilitates stockpile planning for all of its components.

She has been a registered nurse for over 26 years, with more than 26 years of experience in emergency nursing and 25 years in case management, education and nursing administration. She’s also a part-time emergency department nurse at Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Nikki Honore

Nikki Honore’ currently serves as the Department’s statewide nurse consultant for emergency preparedness. In this role, she provides programmatic supervision and training for healthcare professionals across the state of Louisiana who deliver medical support for multiple state-run medical operations. In addition, she develops strategies and identifies training opportunities to build capacity and resiliency in Louisiana communities during disasters.

She is a board certified family nurse practitioner with over 12 years of experience as a clinical practitioner, educator, consultant and nurse leader. She is also a pediatric clinical adjunct instructor at Southern University’s School of Nursing.

Dr. Mark Colomb

As director of Jackson State University, Lafayette-born Dr. Mark Colomb cultivated the development of the Mississippi Urban Research Center (MURC) where he served as project director/principal investigator for 13 federally- and state-funded projects from 1999 to 2003. He secured more than $9 million in grant funding, establishing Jackson State as a premier HIV/AIDS prevention training agency while serving as the lead entity for four regional organizations providing HIV/AIDS prevention training to African American community-based organizations throughout the U.S. and its territories. Dr. Colomb was also founder of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Dr. Colomb played an integral role in shaping state and national HIV/AIDS policy legislation, particularly on behalf of African Americans, by working with a variety of constituents from grassroots advocacy groups to national legislative bodies.





Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Let the good times roll (safely)!

Last year, Mardi Gras turned into a superspreader event for COVID-19. 

This year, there won't be any parades or the big public events that we love and cherish, but that doesn't mean we can't still let the good times roll! 

From king cakes and costumes to decorations and documentaries, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate the spirit of Carnival.