Greetings from the Methodist Children’s Home!

I end this Easter Sunday with a simple “thank you” for your prayers and for your support of Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans. The crisis we faced as a consequence of the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital has been resolved. We have a temporary place to call Home.

The full response of United Methodists in the New Orleans District makes me keenly aware of the passion United Methodists have for our ministry to children and families. Since last July when we learned Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) was closing Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH), we have relied upon the prayers and solid support of United Methodists in congregations across the New Orleans District. We thank you!

In addition to sharing our gratitude, I also want to tell you about current events and what we must do now to prepare for the future.

The great news for now is this: Methodist Home for Children will continue for a period of time on the grounds of what is now called Northlake Behavioral Health System, the former SELH. In January our former lease with Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals was assigned to St. Tammany Parish when the parish received authority to supervise the hospital grounds from DHH. St. Tammany Parish contracted with Meridian Behavioral Health Systems which now manages the hospital as Northlake Behavioral Health System.

I do not know all the details, but I do know a tremendous amount of effort was expended to make all of this possible. I am grateful to Parish President Patricia Brister and her staff. As they did the work necessary to keep hospital services available in St. Tammany Parish, they also worked to ensure Methodist Home for Children was not put out on the street.

Tomorrow, April 1, we will enter a new lease agreement with Northlake Behavioral Health System. It contains favorable terms and I am grateful Northlake is eager to help us continue where we are until we have our own place to call Home! The new lease will expire on January 1, 2016.

Fortunately, today is very different than we expected it might be just a few months ago before all of these pieces found their places.

In the next few weeks, Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans will complete preparations for the new PRTF license required by DHH. We acquired these new licenses in Sulphur last October and in Ruston this January. (If confusion about Southeast Louisiana Hospital’s closure not popped up, Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans would have been the second of our children’s homes to receive the new license, not third.) Mrs. Marlin Giacona, our Program Director in Mandeville, reports we must hire and train another nurse and a few more direct care staff before we can schedule our licensing site visit. We are almost there!

With a temporary location at Northlake and the new license from DHH, we should be stable for the next 33 months. So here’s what the future holds.

We must have our own place to call Home!

With the distractions of location and license out of the way, it’s now time for us to permanently resolve our transient status. We must create a permanent location just as we have for our children’s homes in Ruston and in Sulphur. And we must do this in the next 33 months!

This will require our own property – we are looking north of I-12 but still close enough to important resources like medical care and to allow easy access for families to visit. 80 acres will be large enough to divide into a 40 acre residential campus for children and a 40 acre outdoor therapeutic recreation area for our kids and the community.

What we have in mind is something like a combination of a 40 acre residential campus like we have in Ruston and Sulphur with the heart of our OWL Center in north Louisiana. This will give us plenty room to grow in the next 100 years as the needs of children and families change. It will also offer our residents immediate access to exciting services such as equine-assisted psychotherapy and a challenge course which we have found to be helpful treatment interventions at the OWL Center.

To make this happen, we must find and purchase land, design the first residential building so that it will be useful whatever Louisiana’s child welfare system looks like now and in the future, and then we must build it. The irony of timing is that work on this “hundred year solution” must progress as quickly as possible. The 33 months between now and January 1, 2016 will pass quickly!

Expect to see us continue providing exceptional care to children and their families in our current temporary location while we work to create our own permanent place to call Home.

I end by thanking you for loving the Home – and by asking, please – keep us in your prayers! We have difficult work ahead and we will continue to need the active support and enthusiasm of United Methodists who help us care for Louisiana’s children and families.

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