Regional leaders in Acadiana have taken the first steps towards the creation of a “human services district” for residents of the seven-parish area surrounding Lafayette, or LDH Region IV. The effort, supported by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, will allow local leadership to use continued state funding to deliver mental health, addictive disorders, developmental disabilities and public health services considered a priority by the local community.
Region IV is the fifth region to establish a local governing entity, known as a human services district, which uses existing state funding for mental health, addictive disorders, developmental disability and certain public health services to support the community's health care needs that the community sets as a priority. The districts may also use federal, local and private funding to augment state funding, and receive technical guidance from the state for service implementation and workforce training. Act 373 of 2008 also allows for certain public health services to be delivered through the districts. Under the service district model, state employees transfer to the newly created local district, but are still covered by civil service guidelines.
“We are proud of the progress being made toward creating a human services district in Acadiana,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine. “Not only will a locally-governed, community-based system of care improve access to vital services for so many that need it, but evidence from similar programs in other states and other regions in Louisiana demonstrates that community- and home-based settings work best for clients and for communities.”
The Region IV board of directors has met twice and is in the process of developing bylaws and operating policies for the new district. State Rep. Fred Mills Jr. of St. Martin Parish has been instrumental in making the local effort a reality. Mills authored Act 373 of the 2008 regular legislative session, which authorized creation of human services districts for regions that didn't already have districts in operation, including Region IV.
“I, along with my colleagues, applaud state and parish official and the newly appointed board for making this happen on the local level. Locally governed districts can make a huge difference in the quality of life for residents by strengthening and supporting home- and community-based services,” said Mills.
“We are actively providing guidance and technical assistance to the board during this process,” said LDH Deputy Secretary Tony Keck. Keck oversees the LDH program offices that partner with the human services districts to fund services and ensure access and quality. Timelines included in Act 373 outlines an up to three-year start-up process during which the new district must meet specific criteria that demonstrate they are capable for assuming responsibility for high quality service delivery and good governance. “Our goal is to help the new district progress through the three phases of readiness in a timely manner so the community may begin to direct its services as soon as possible.”
Region IV’s (Acadiana) human services district’s board of directors includes one appointee from each participating parish and three members from the district, appointed by the governor. Current members include:
- Ronald Lynn Canino of Rayne
- Joseph “Claude” Devillier of Eunice
- Former state Rep. Sydnie Mae Durand of St. Martinville
- Gwen Klorer of Abbeville
- Butch McHugh of St. Martinville
- Mary B. Neiheisel of Lafayette
- John Pitre of Ville Platte
- Barry Verret of New Iberia
- Bryan Vidrine of Ville Platte
Four other human services districts operate in regions throughout Louisiana: Metropolitan Human Services District, which serves Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes (Region I); Capital Area Human Services District, which includes East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, Point Coupee, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes (Region II); the Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, serving St. Tammany, St. Helena, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes (Region IX); and the Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority (Region X).
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.