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.